Profits growth almost stalled at Toyota, the world's wealthiest car company, last year, figures from Tokyo have shown.
The 0.7 per cent increase in net profit to a record 1 . 17 trillion yen (£5.856 million) was less than most analysts had predicted.
And although Toyota does not normally give earnings predictions, the indications were that a further setback is expected this year in the teeth of steeply rising raw material costs and ever tougher competition in the world's car markets.
Toyota is also assuming higher-investment levels in research and development and in new plant development. In the past month alone Toyota, which is second in the world league to General Motors on sales, has announced plans to build new factories or extend existing facilities in Russia, Thailand and Indonesia. It is also considering opening a seventh factory in North America.
In the UK, where Toyota builds Avensis and Corolla models at Burnaston, Derbyshire, the company is now reaping the benefits of more than a decade of investment.
Figures for Toyota Manufacturing UK, whose operations also include the Deeside engine factory, are expected to reveal that profits nearly doubled to £30 million last year.
Burnaston is expected to raise its production level to about 285,000 units this year, more than 80 per cent of which will be exported.
Group operating profit for the year to March 31 inched up by 0.3 per cent to 1 . 67 trillion yen (£8.426 billion) on sales 7.3 per cent ahead at 18 . 55 trillion yen (£93.56 billion).