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Toyota Sends Venzas to South Korea, Boosting U.S. Exports

Toyota Motor Corp. is making good on a plan to boost U.S. exports by shipping Kentucky-built Venzas to South Korea, helping Asia’s largest carmaker maximize use of factories in North America and blunt the yen’s impact.

The company’s plant in Georgetown, Kentucky, is producing a version of the midsize wagon for South Korea, where it already sends U.S.-produced Camry sedans and Sienna minivans, Toyota said yesterday in a statement. Toyota expects exports of U.S.- built vehicles to reach a record, increasing 52 percent this year to more than 130,000 cars and trucks, the company said.

The Venza exports help “maintain Toyota’s strong, stable base of U.S. jobs,” Bob Carter, U.S. senior vice president, said in the statement. “We look forward to other opportunities to continue expanding exports from our American operations.” The Kentucky manufacturing operation is Toyota’s largest outside of Japan and employs about 6,600 people.

Toyota, along with Japan-based Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co., has been shifting more production to North America to counter the yen’s almost 30 percent rise against the dollar in the past five years, including opening a Corolla small-car plant in Mississippi, moving Highlander sport-utility vehicle production to Indiana and expanding Lexus RX SUV output in Canada. Last week, Toyota said it would make small cars with Mazda Motor Corp. in 2015 at a plant Mazda is building in Mexico.

Yoshimi Inaba, chairman of Toyota’s U.S. sales unit, in January said the company intended to make North America a global export base.

Recall, Rebound

The initial goal is to send about 600 Venzas annually to South Korea, Toyota said. The company said it currently sends U.S.-made models, including Tacoma and Tundra pickups and Highlander and Sequoia SUVs, to 21 countries.

Separately, Carter declined during the webcast of a Barclays Plc conference yesterday in New York to discuss the potential cost to the company of recalling 2.77 million cars worldwide.

The company, based in Toyota City, Japan, said today it will inspect and fix 14 models including second-generation Prius hybrids and Corolla small cars for steering and water-pump system flaws.

In the U.S., combined deliveries of Toyota, Lexus and Scion models gained 30 percent this year through October from a year earlier after 2011 natural disasters in Asia that cut production.

Market Share

The company expects continued growth through 2014, Carter said in New York. By that time, the Toyota brand alone should reach about 2 million U.S. sales, with market share of more than 13 percent, he said.

“In a nutshell, Toyota is getting back to the top of its game,” Carter said.

The Toyota brand held 12.8 percent of the U.S. market this year through October, up from 11.1 percent a year earlier, according to researcher Autodata Corp. The company’s total U.S. market share was 14.4 percent for the first 10 months, up from 12.6 percent.

Toyota’s U.S. sales unit is in Torrance, California. The company’s shares rose 2.1 percent to 3,125 yen at 9:35 a.m. in Tokyo trading, extending this year’s gain to 22 percent.

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