Toyota Australia sold a record 115,409 vehicles in the 15 months to March and reaped an all-time-high $A1.7 billion in export earnings yet still lost $A2.7 million, writes Mike Duffy.

The red ink result, announced yesterday, followed a $A6.3 million loss by the car maker in calendar 2000.

Toyota's loss resulted from a turnover of $A7.1 billion.

General Motors affiliate Holden has reported a record after-tax profit of $A285 million on a turnover of $A5.57 billion for 2001.

Mitsubishi Motors Australia booked a $A16 million profit and Ford Australia lost $A5.5 million.

Toyota's last reported profit was in 1999 when the company banked $A16 million following a profit of $A74 million in 1998.

During the 15-month period under review, Toyota's domestic sales of Camry and Avalon (different to the US version) reached 174,762 while 72,957 cars were exported.

A Toyota statement said the company had contributed $A478 million to State and Federal taxes and duties in the past 15 months.

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Toyota Australia president Ken Asano said currency losses, coupled with development costs associated with the new Camry, due for release in September, had contributed to the result.

"Given the extent of our development activity I expect Toyota Australia will report a positive result for 2002/3," Asano said.

Export revenue of $A1.7 billion compared to $A1.4 billion in calendar 2000.

The 15-month reporting cycle now brings the Australian operations into line with Toyota's global reporting fiscal year of 1 April through to 31 March.

Toyota said it was currently investing more than $A320 million to increase Altona plant capacity to maximise sales of the new Camry in domestic and international markets later this year.

The new four cylinder engine was also in the final stages of development.

The company has also installed a new body press plant and improved the engine plant and foundry.

Asano said continuing general consumer confidence and low interest rates was contributing to the high demand for new motor vehicles in Australia with Toyota achieving record vehicle sales through first quarter 2002.

Toyota Australia also invested $A50 million in a new headquarters at Port Melbourne and the construction of a new Victorian regional office.

Toyota is Australia biggest vehicle exporter and last month shipped the 200,000th Camry to the Middle East since exports started seven years ago.

The Australian-made Camry is by far the largest selling passenger car in Saudi Arabia and is also exported to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and Yemen.