TOKYO -- Operating profit at Mazda Motor Corp. more than tripled in the most recent quarter as sales rebounded from the pandemic slump and the company curbed marketing costs.
In announcing the earnings results, the automaker also outlined a personnel shuffle that promotes Jeffrey Guyton as its new CEO for Mazda Motor of America, pending approval at the company's June 24 annual shareholders' meeting.
Guyton, currently president of North American operations, will replace Masahiro Moro, who will be put in charge of global corporate communications and administrative functions.
Mazda booked an operating profit of 40.8 billion yen ($370.3 million) in the fiscal fourth quarter ended March 31, compared with an operating profit of 11.3 billion yen ($102.6 million) the year before, the automaker said in an earnings statement on Friday.
At the net level, Mazda bounced back into the black, posting net income of 46.5 billion yen ($422.0 million) and reversing a net loss of 20.3 billion yen ($184.2 million) from a year earlier.
Revenue advanced 6 percent to 922.6 billion yen ($8.37 billion) in the January-March period. Global retail sales climbed 14 percent to 358,000 vehicles; wholesale volume increased 2 percent to 325,000. North American retail volume jumped 21 percent to 111,000 units.
Stricter cost control and rising sales -- buttressed by an 8,000-vehicle boost to wholesale deliveries -- helped underpin the quarterly improvement, Mazda said.
The strong finish also lifted Mazda to a narrow full-year operating profit of 8.80 billion yen ($79.9 million). The automaker had earlier expected to only break even.
“We were able to achieve growth in our operating profit, pretax profit and in free cash flow in fiscal 2020, and I think those are big results,” CEO Akira Marumoto said. “But in comparison with profit forecasts of other carmakers, I think we still have a lot of room for improvement."
For the full fiscal year ended March 31, overall operating profit tumbled 80 percent from the previous year before the pandemic and global microchip shortage.
And on a net basis, Mazda slumped to a net loss of 31.7 billion yen in the fiscal year ended March 31. Global retail deliveries slid 9 percent to 1.29 million vehicles.
Marumoto said last year that the pandemic slowdown had forced Mazda to delay its midterm business plan goals by one year. It now expects to achieve global sales of 1.8 million units and an operating profit margin of 5 percent in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2026.
Marumoto warned about continued market uncertainty due to the chip shortage and rising raw material prices. Mazda said it expects to lose about 100,000 units of production in the current fiscal year but that it will try to maximize inventory to keep the sales hit at 70,000. Mazda is working in the midterm to diversify its sourcing of microchips, the CEO said.
But the strong finish to the latest fiscal year puts the automaker on pace for a rapid rebound. Mazda expects a seven-fold increase in operating profit to 65.0 billion yen ($589.9 million) in the current fiscal year ending March 31, 2022 -- though the anticipated operating profit margin of 1.9 percent is still far below the 5 percent midterm target.
It also expects to bounce out of the red with net income of 35.0 billion yen ($317.6 million).
Surging sales and a more profitable mix will underpin the upswing, Mazda said. The company wants to pump up supply by increasing wholesale shipments by 145,000 vehicles.
Global retail volume is seen improving 9 percent to 1.41 million vehicles in the current fiscal year. Mazda projects North American sales to increase 3 percent to 414,000 vehicles, keeping its place as Mazda's biggest market, while European volume will advance 26 percent to 225,0000.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced a delay in the construction of the new U.S. plant Mazda is jointly building with Toyota in Alabama, Marumoto said. But he said Mazda still thinks it can bring the factory online by the end of the year.
Naoto Okamura contributed to this report.