Toyota CEO: Don’t call our cars ‘boring’ anymore – USA TODAY

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Toyota Motor Co. posted weaker-than-expected full year results Wednesday and cautioned that profits in the current fiscal year are likely to fall sharply as the yen strengthens and sales stall.
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Sensible, dependable, long-lasting.

That’s how many new-vehicle buyers would describe Toyota. But boring? That hits a little too close to home for CEO Akio Toyoda.

“Until now, there were times when Toyota’s cars were called ‘boring’ or were said to be lacking in character,” Toyoda told reporters Wednesday. “But I now feel that, in terms of driving and design, our customers have begun to favorably evaluate our cars.”

Nonetheless, he acknowledged, there’s “still room for improvement.”

Toyoda’s comments came as the Japanese automaker reported so-so financial results for the full fiscal year ended March 31.

Because of tough currency rates, the company reported a 20.8% drop in net income to a still-robust 1.831 trillion yen, or $16.1 billion at today’s rates.

In the calendar-year 2016, Toyota lost its title as the world’s largest automaker by a slight margin to Volkswagen Group.

Revenue fell 2.8% to $242.2 billion, while operating income declined 30.1% to $17.5 billion. Toyota projected a 2.5% decrease in revenue and an 18% fall in net income for the fiscal year ending in March 2018. The automaker projected fiscal-year retail vehicle sales of 10.25 million, essentially flat.

The company’s vaunted profit margins are slipping. Toyota projected that its operating margin would fall from 7.2% last year to 5.8% in the new fiscal year.

Toyoda said the company must prepare for the “paradigm shift” in the industry toward self-driving vehicles.

“It is my view that our latest financial results demonstrate Toyota’s desire to steadily and continuously advance our investment in the future, rather than place top priority on short-term profit,” Toyoda said.

He said the company was prepared for dramatic change after establishing an internal division called the Toyota Research Institute to work on futuristic technologies.

For now, though, the company’s bread and butter remained vehicles like the recently redesigned Camry sedan, which Toyoda half-jokingly dubbed as “sexy” at the Detroit auto show in January.

The vehicle will be manufactured based on a new global platform for design and engineering. Toyota plans to extend that platform to other vehicles to lower costs and accelerate redesign rates.

Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.

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