Impact: Japanese rating agency downgrades Toyota’s rating image

Rating and Investment Information Inc. , a Japanese rating agency on Wednesday downgraded Toyota and its two subordinate companies’ credit rating from AAA to AA- citing the automaker’s less-than-perfect response to the yen’s appreciation.

“It is undeniable that it took some time for the giant automaker to address environmental changes after Lehman’s collapse due to its hugeness,” it said.

“Toyota Motor has not taken sufficiently drastic measures to cope with the stronger yen.”

Japan’s economy contracted more than expected in the last three months of 2011 as a rising yen and floods in Thailand hurt businesses.

The world’s number-three economy shrank 0.6 percent quarter-on-quarter, the Cabinet Office said, and 0.9 percent through 2011. It grew 4.4 percent in 2010.

For all of last year, Japan’s economy contracted 0.9 per cent from 2010, when GDP grew a robust 4.4 per cent. In 2009, the economy shrank 5.5 per cent in the wake of the global financial crisis.

Toyota said on Tuesday that it now expects group-wide global sales of 7.410 million vehicles in the year to March 31, higher than the 7.380 million it projected in early December.