Toyota: Earnings hit but priority is Japan recovery

By Chang-Ran Kim

TOYOTA CITY, Japan (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp <7203.T> President Akio Toyoda said on Friday that the devastating earthquake and tsunami in northeast Japan would hurt the company's earnings, but said that was not on his list of priorities.

"The priority now is the safety of the victims of the disaster, and to try and bring back normal operations as quickly as possible to restore hope," he told reporters after addressing new hires at a ceremony to mark their first day of work.

Toyoda repeated the company's stance that it is uncertain when it can resume full production after the March 11 disaster disrupted its supply chain.

The world's biggest automaker has stopped producing vehicles at all but two of the 18 group factories that build Toyota and Lexus cars in Japan. At those two factories it is only assembling a limited number of three hybrid models at a reduced rate.

"This time, all of eastern Japan is affected," Toyoda said. "Rather than think about one automaker's recovery, we want to think about how we can help to restore the lifeline of infrastructure to this region."

Commencing the new hires' ceremony with a moment of silence in memory of the victims of the disaster, Toyoda spent the first few minutes speaking of the need for Toyota to help restore the damaged communities in the north and contribute to the nation's recovery.

Toyoda, who visited the damaged areas earlier this week, told reporters that Toyota would remain committed to the northeast region, Tohoku, which it started to build up as its third production base in Japan several years ago.

"It's about the recovery of Japan," he said. He added that rolling power blackouts would be inevitable during the peak summer season, and there was a limit to what one company could do to resume normal operations.

(Editing by Michael Watson)