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Waiting for Toyota to do what it must

Once again, Toyota lags its two main Japanese rivals.

All Japanese automakers have struggled to cope with the dollar-yen exchange rates for the past 12 months or so. These rates have made it difficult to export vehicles profitably from Japan to the United States.

In January, Nissan said it would raise the local content of vehicles built in North America, cutting its reliance on parts paid for in yen, and would aim to boost the percentage of vehicles sold in the Americas that are built here. The target: 85 percent. Last year, 69 percent of combined Nissan and Infiniti vehicles sold in the United States were built in North American plants.

Since then, to meet that goal, Nissan has said it will move production of the Nissan Rogue and Infiniti JX crossovers to Smyrna, Tenn., from Japan. It's already building and expanding factories in Smyrna to make battery packs and the Nissan Leaf electric sedan.

The Leaf represents one of Nissan's highest-tech vehicles, while the JX will be the only Infiniti built outside of Japan when production starts next year.

Honda today said it will build an assembly plant in Mexico -- its eighth in North America -- to build subcompacts for sale in the United States, Mexico and Canada. The $800 million factory will have the capacity to build 200,000 cars a year.

I'm sure Honda plans to gain market share with the vehicles coming from that plant. But at least some of that Mexican production will represent cars no longer being imported from Japan.

So Nissan and Honda have taken action to boost North American output, prompted by the yen.

And Toyota? Hello?

So far, it has resumed plans to open a new factory in Mississippi. Those plans were put on ice during the recession.

We're still waiting for Toyota to admit that more of the vehicles it sells here need to be built here.

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