updated 5/10/2005 8:02:53 AM ET 2005-05-10T12:02:53

Toyota Motor Corp.'s fourth-quarter profit dipped, but the world's second-largest automaker said Tuesday that it still posted record earnings for the full fiscal year as sales grew across all key regions.

The company, whose solid results contrast with the struggles of U.S. rivals General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co., recorded 290.7 billion yen ($2.8 billion) profit for the quarter ended March 31, down 17 percent from 351.2 billion yen the same period a year ago.

But Toyota forecast strong profits for the current fiscal year and said the quarterly slip came from costs to raise overseas production as it prepares another major push to expand its global operations. Quarterly sales rose 4.2 percent to 4.88 trillion yen ($46 billion) from 4.68 trillion yen a year earlier.

"We are very proud that the company achieved increases both in revenue and income while continuing to make major investments in our long-term growth," Toyota President Fujio Cho said.

For the fiscal year, net income for Japan's top automaker grew 0.8 percent to 1.17 trillion yen ($11 billion) from 1.16 trillion yen the previous year. Sales edged up 7.3 percent to 18.55 trillion yen ($176 billion) from 17.3 trillion a year earlier.

Global sales for the fiscal year rose to 7.4 million vehicles, up 10.3 percent from 6.7 million vehicles, with solid sales growth in North America, Europe, Japan and the rest of Asia. Toyota, which does not give consolidated profit forecasts, expects sales to rise to 7.85 million for the year ending in March 2006.

Robust sales combined with 160 billion yen ($1.5 billion) in cost reduction efforts during the latest fiscal year to offset the damage from an unfavorable exchange rate totaling 140 billion yen ($1.3 billion).

The Japanese yen has been rising, a trend that tends to erode the value of overseas earnings for Toyota and other Japanese exporters. The dollar was trading at about 106 yen Tuesday, compared to about 113 yen a year ago.

Sales were strong in all major markets in fiscal 2004. In Japan, where Toyota controls 44.5 percent of the auto market, sales increased by 78,000 vehicles to 2.38 million vehicles on the popularity of the Vitz compact and Crown sedan.

Sales in North America reached 2.27 million vehicles, up by 168,000 vehicles, as demand remained strong for the Prius hybrid, which switches between a gasoline engine and electric motor to deliver good mileage, as well as for Scion cars that target younger drivers.

Vehicle sales in Europe and other regions, including Asia and the Middle East, were also up.

Toyota, based in Toyota city, central Japan, has been doing so well in contrast to faltering U.S. automakers that Chairman Hiroshi Okuda has even expressed concerns and said he was considering offers of help.

Okuda has said Toyota is willing to consider raising prices on cars in North America to give the U.S. automakers breathing room as well as possibly sharing its hybrid vehicle technology. Toyota and General Motors deny they are already in talks.

Toyota has already surpassed Ford, based in Dearborn, Michigan, as the world's second-biggest automaker in annual global vehicle sales, although it still trails Detroit-based GM.

Toyota shares, which have recently settled from a surge to about the same level they were at a year ago, closed unchanged at 3,900 yen ($37) on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, shortly before earnings were released.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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