Toyota Says North America to Become Global Auto Export Base

Toyota Motor Corp. (7203), Asia’s biggest automaker, will use its North American plants as a bigger source of vehicle exports as a way to blunt the impact of the rising yen, said Yoshimi Inaba, chief operating officer for the region.

The company is now shipping cars and trucks built at North American plants to 19 countries, including South Korea and Saudi Arabia, and aims to significantly boost the volume, totaling 16,700 units a year ago, Inaba told reporters at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit yesterday.

“This is only a beginning,” Inaba said. “The only way to take advantage of this extremely high yen is to export from this dollar basis.”

Toyota, along with Japan-based Honda Motor Co. (7267) and Nissan Motor Co. (7201), has already shifted more vehicle production outside Japan to counter the yen’s 8.3 percent rise against the dollar in the past year, including opening a Corolla small car plant in Mississippi in late 2011. Exports from the Toyota City, Japan- based company’s plants in the U.S., Canada and Mexico will mainly be of niche models not built in Japan.

Nissan’s Plans

Nissan plans to add a third auto-assembly plant in Mexico to increase vehicle exports from that country to both the U.S. and across South America, Bill Krueger, vice chairman of the company’s operations in the Americas, said in an interview this week at the Detroit auto show.

Carlos Ghosn, chief executive of both Nissan and alliance partner Renault SA, said in an interview that an announcement about expanding in Mexico may come within weeks.

Toyota already exports Camry and Avalon sedans, Tundra and Tacoma pickups, Sienna minivans and Sequoia sport-utility vehicles to markets in Central and South America and the Middle East, Inaba said. The company last month begin shipping Kentucky-built Camrys to South Korea for the first time.

Given the scale of Toyota’s global distribution network, the company should eventually be able to export more vehicles from North American plants than even U.S.-based automakers, Inaba said.

As a further cost-saving move, Toyota is also studying getting more parts or even producing more vehicles in Mexico, Inaba said.

“Using Mexico as an important base for either parts or production is no doubt,” Inaba said, without elaborating. “We are always looking at Mexico. We have a small experience in Baja, but that is not the end of the story.”

The company has a small factory in Mexico’s Baja California, near Tijuana, that builds about 60,000 Tacoma pickups annually.

Toyota’s American depositary receipts fell 0.1 percent to $68.60 at the close in New York. The company’s U.S. sales unit is based in Torrance, California.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alan Ohnsman in Detroit at aohnsman@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jamie Butters at jbutters@bloomberg.net

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