Toyota Motor president Akio Toyoda on Friday called the current dollar-yen rate "very tough", saying the weak US currency made it difficult to return to profit on an unconsolidated level.

"When you get to this level, it makes it difficult to return to profit on sales growth alone," he told a news conference at the Japan National Press Club, Reuters reported.

Toyoda repeated Toyota's aim to return to profit at the parent level "as soon as possible", even as it expects global sales to fall 18% from 2008 to 7.34m vehicles this year. That would leave about 30% of its production capacity unused.

Expressing regret over the fatal accident that led to this week's US recall of 3.8m cars, Toyoda said the company was working with US traffic safety authorities to get to the bottom of the problem. He declined to estimate the scope of damage - financial or otherwise - that the recalls would have on Toyota.

"Right now, we're focusing all our energy on taking steps that are in the interest of our customers," he said. "I sincerely regret the loss of life of our four customers."

Last month, an off-duty California state trooper and three members of his family were killed in the San Diego area in a crash of a 2009 Lexus ES350.

Toyoda said he would welcome an unlikely extension of Japan's cash-for-clunkers scheme beyond next March, while adding that it would not be prudent to keep depending on the government for help.