Toyota (NYSE:TM) is projecting almost no revenue or operating profit growth in the coming fiscal year, after a surge or 16% and 74% respectively in the 2013 fiscal year. According to the Wall Street Journal, company president Akio Toyoda used those projections to downplay expectations.
In previous years, Toyota (along with other Japanese exporters) has benefited from the weak yen; as the yen steadies, overseas sales become less lucrative and revenue declines. On top of this, unfavorable tax policy in Japan has caused the company to temper expectations even more. However, Toyota is entering a new phase in which they will emphasize sustainable growth that is not so dependent upon the volatility of trade and policy but rather on the underlying structure of the company.
Structural changes, cost cutting, and self-reliance
Toyoda said it best: "We were like a tree that grew too rapidly and as a result wasn't able to grow a strong enough trunk to protect it from the elements." He also advocates sustainable growth, which is music to the ears of this Fool.
The decline of the yen in previous years caused Toyota's revenue and profits to skyrocket, but also gave rise to business practices that are unsustainable in less favorable conditions. In particular, Toyota paid little mind to expense when expanding sales and manufacturing in North America. This resulted in a costly, spread-out operation that began to cause problems with the rise of the yen in the fourth quarter of 2013.
However, Toyota did its due diligence, recognized the issue, and is now moving to consolidate its North American operations in Dallas. This not only cuts costs through consolidation, but also saves money on taxes and overhead costs, as Dallas is relatively cheaper. It also brings the North American headquarters closer to major manufacturing plants, thus increasing efficiency. This is just one part of a robust cost-cutting operation that will save Toyota 165 billion yen (roughly $1.5 billion.)
On top of cutting costs, consolidating will also help with quality control. This is a problem that has plagued Toyota as a result of its rapid expansion (read: a $1.2 billion punitive measure as a result of consecutive recalls in the U.S. market.)
It seems that Toyota is pushing to create a firm organizational foundation, one that it previously lacked in North America. Essentially, Toyota is trying to create "One Toyota" in North America -- a self-reliant branch of the larger company that can individually show sustainable growth. The company grew without regard for efficient structure, and its current restructuring effort gives the company that structure.
Why this means success for Toyota
Despite its conservative growth forecast for the coming year, Toyota is taking in all-time high revenue and running an all-time high operating profit. The lack of growth that is forecast hardly constitutes a bump in the road, and Toyota is taking robust measures to ensure that negative policy and exchange conditions don't affect their bottom line as much as they have in the past.
Toyota is basing its management decisions on long-term goals, which is precisely why I am so high on the company's stock. Upon seeing stagnant sales, management could opt for a short-term fix; instead, Toyota is implementing long-term fiscally sound measures that ensure growth.
Now is the time to consider buying Toyota. It has an 8.8 forward P/E ratio, which indicates that it is trading cheaply when compared to an average industry P/E of 14.4. The low P/E can likely be attributed to investors' concerns about next year's tepid growth forecast. When taking into account the organizational focus on long-term growth over short-term gains, however, Toyota becomes a no-brainer. Combine this with the company's focus on R&D -- it plans to bring a fuel-cell sedan to the market as early as 2015 -- and you've got a company that's practically begging for attention.
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