Mitsubishi Motors said Thursday its net profit for the fiscal year to March soared 53.2 percent, partly driven by cost cutting, even as its last-quarter results tumbled on a strong yen. Japan\'s fourth-largest automaker said it earned 23.9 billion yen ($294 million) in the past year, up from 15.6 billion yen in the year-earlier period. Operating profit surged 58.1 percent to 63.7 billion yen as sales slipped to 1.81 trillion yen in the 12 months since Japan was devastated by a quake-tsunami disaster, down 1.2 percent from the previous year. The disaster, which pounded Japanese manufacturers and forced plant closures, was followed by record flooding in Thailand later in the year, hurting Japanese firms with operations in the Southeast Asian nation. \"The automobile industry has had to continue to operate in a difficult environment,\" Mitsubishi said in a statement on Thursday. In February, Mitsubishi said it would stop manufacturing automobiles in Europe by the end of 2012, blaming a difficult operating environment in the debt-hit continent. But on Thursday the automaker said it managed a big rise in annual profit mainly because of \"improvements in model mix, together with other measures such as reductions in materials and other costs.\" Mitsubishi, maker of the i-MiEV, the world\'s first commercially produced electric car, also said it recorded a net profit of 10.3 billion yen in the January to March quarter, down 42.0 percent from 17.8 billion in the same period a year earlier. The company blamed the decline mainly on the strong yen, which hit record highs late last year, making Japanese products more expensive overseas and eroding the value of foreign earnings. Also Thursday, the firm forecasted a higher net profit of 25.0 billion yen on sales of 1.98 trillion yen in the fiscal year through March 2013.