Toyota plant in France launches Yaris output for U.S.

Toyota will produce about 25,000 gasoline-powered Yaris units a year for export to North America.

Toyota Motor Europe has started making the Yaris for North American export at its plant in Valenciennes, France, marking the first time the automaker's European-built models will be exported to the United States and Canada.

The production switch maximizes Toyota's utilization of the French plant and frees up capacity for the introduction of a new product in Japan, a spokesman told Automotive News Europe today.

Toyota will produce about 25,000 gasoline-powered Yaris units a year for export to North America, which represents more than 10 percent of output at the French plant. The automaker has spent 10 million euros adapting the site to build the car to North American specifications.

The requirements included fitting the car with a North American-specific 1.5-liter engine and an automatic transmission.

The first Yaris shipment, which is headed to Canada, leaves May 19 while the initial batch of the subcompacts destined for the United States will depart May 21.

Toyota previously assembled the Yaris for the U.S. market at a plant in Japan.

The automaker switched output of the subcompact to Europe from Japan to help offset the volatility of the yen.

"The effort globally is to try and secure production which is more or less shielded from yen fluctuation," the spokesman said.

"In terms of logistics, it is pretty neutral," he said when asked about the differences between exporting from Europe vs. Japan.

The third-generation Yaris was launched in Europe in summer 2011, followed by the hybrid variant in June 2012.

With a volume of 182,841, the Yaris accounted for nearly 22 percent of Toyota's total European sales in 2012, the company said.

Through April, Toyota had sold 9,401 units of the Yaris in the United States, down 35 percent from 14,443 during the same period last year.

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