TOKYO — When the pandemic deflated global demand and forced factory line suspensions, Japan's automakers were quick to do the math: If sales were heading south, so must their breakeven points.
As margins came under pressure last year, many of the country's automakers raced to improve their ability to churn out profits even while churning out fewer vehicles. As a result, changing those breakeven points was a top talking point of Toyota, Nissan and Mazda during the latest earnings season. Honda also made a point of saying it has cut back its fixed costs.
The issue may be most pressing for Nissan Motor Co. Although it reported large losses for the year, Nissan said it has lowered its operating profit breakeven point to a global sales level of 4.4 million vehicles — down from 5 million vehicles in 2018, before the pandemic.