At an appearance at the Japan National Press Club, Toyoda said the automaker was "grasping for salvation," The New York Times reported Friday.
With Toyota predicted to lose about $5 billion in the current fiscal year, he said it was "agonizing" to close a car plant in California. He even apologized to consumers, saying automakers had "abandoned our passion for cars."
To the government, he added, "I want Toyota to return to profit, so we can start paying taxes and go back to contributing to society."
Toyota recalled 3.8 million vehicles this week, the largest U.S. vehicle recall on record, in part because of the fallout from a collision in San Diego that killed four people.
"Four precious lives have been lost. I offer my deepest condolences. Customers bought our cars because they thought they were the safest. But now we have given them cause for grave concern. I can't begin to express my remorse," he said.