Toyota Motor Corp, Nissan Motor Co and Honda Motor Co, Japan's three largest automakers, said their global production increased last month, boosted by demand in North America, Europe and Asia.
Toyota, the world's second-biggest carmaker, said it made 506,334 vehicles worldwide last month, 4.1 percent more than a year ago. Nissan, Japan's second-largest automaker, increased its global production by 2.5 percent to 228,144 units. Honda, Japan's third-largest, made 262,103 vehicles, 9.4 percent more.
Japanese automakers are boosting production and capacity abroad to shield themselves from currency fluctuations and to cut delivery time to customers as demand grows outside Japan.
The nation's carmakers together grabbed a record 30.5 percent last year of the US automotive market, the world's largest, up 1.5 point from 2003, according to New Jersey-based Autodata.
"The companies will keep expanding their production abroad aggressively, as demand for their vehicles increases," said Koichi Ogawa, who helps manage the equivalent of US$8.6 billion in Japanese equities at Daiwa SB Investments Ltd in Tokyo.
Global Production up
Toyota's global production last year rose 11 percent to 6.72 million units, helping it surpass Ford Motor Co in becoming the second-biggest carmaker.
Nissan, 44.4 percent owned by France's Renault SA, rose 8 percent to 3.19 million units. Honda closed its gap with Nissan, expanding its output last year by 7.2 percent to 3.18 million units.
Toyota president Fujio Cho said earlier this month that it will build at least 75 percent of cars and trucks sold in North America at local factories, up from 63 percent last year. The company, the fourth-largest automaker in the US, will also open a new plant in Texas this year.
The automaker also plans to increase production at its Burnaston plant in the UK by 13 percent this year, following record sales in Europe of its Avensis and Corolla models last year.
Toyota said its overseas production gained 12 percent to 237,604 vehicles last month. Domestic production of the carmaker, based in central Japan's Toyota City, fell 1.9 percent to 268,730 units last month. Exports from Japan by the maker of Corolla and Crown passenger cars fell 6.8 percent to 161,029 units.
Overseas output at Nissan rose 16 percent to 134,239 vehicles last month. The producer of Bluebird and Altima cars said exports fell 18 percent to 52,881 vehicles.
Tokyo-based Nissan said its production in Japan fell 12 percent to 93,905 vehicles. Nissan had to cut production by 25,000 units in November and last month because its push to release six new vehicle models in five months caused it to run out of steel sheets.
Nissan, which makes 96 percent of its vehicles sold in North America locally, may expand capacity in the region after 2008, depending on demand, Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn said on Jan. 13.
Honda, the No. 5 carmaker in the US, is expanding production at its factory in Lincoln, Alabama this year, giving it capacity in the US of 1.33 million units, compared with 1.22 million last year.
The company, which earns as much as 80 percent of its operating profit in the US, also plans to make the next version of its CR-V sport-utility vehicle in East Liberty, Ohio.
Mazda, Mitsubishi Motors Mazda Motor Corp, Japan's fourth-largest automaker, said global production rose 6.9 percent to 94,087 vehicles last month.