Toyota, Honda, Nissan set N.A. output records as yen weakens

Tacoma trucks roll off the production line at a Toyota plant in Baja, California, Mexico, in December. Toyota built a record 1.86 million Toyota and Lexus cars and light trucks at U.S., Canadian and Mexican plants in 2013.

UPDATED: 1/22/14 5:44 pm ET

LOS ANGELES (Bloomberg) -- Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. set production records at their North American auto-assembly plants last year even as the yen weakened against the dollar for a second consecutive year.

Toyota, the world's largest automaker, built 1.86 million Toyota and Lexus cars and light trucks at U.S., Canadian and Mexican plants, while Honda made 1.78 million Honda and Acura autos in North America, the companies said in statements Tuesday.

Nissan said it produced 1.47 million light vehicles in Mexico and the United States last year, up from 1.33 million in 2012.

While the gains weren't matched by records in U.S. sales, exports increased to markets including South Korea and Latin America.

Honda’s Accord topped Toyota’s Camry in U.S. output and led in North American car production last year as Asia-based automakers set new production records in the region amid rebounding sales.

Honda built 466,695 Accords at its Marysville, Ohio, plant in 2013, 17 percent more than the prior year, and putting it ahead of the 445,973 Camrys made at Toyota’s Georgetown, Ky., plant and affiliate Fuji Heavy Industries’ Subaru factory in Indiana. While Camry outsold Accord in the United States, Honda raised exports of its mid-sized model.

“There was a significant increase in exports,” said Ron Lietzke, a spokesman for Honda’s North American unit in Marysville. U.S. Accord output topped U.S. sales by 100,000 units last year, with cars going to markets including South Korea, Russia and Saudi Arabia, he said.

The North American output gains for Japan’s three biggest carmakers happened even as the yen fell against the dollar for a second consecutive year. The currency, which surged in 2011, declined 17.6 percent against the dollar in 2013, after losing 11 percent of its value in 2012.

Toyota, Honda and Nissan kept expanding North American vehicle and component plants as insulation against currency swings that can make imports unprofitable, and to avoid over-reliance on parts sourced overseas.

Natural disasters in Asia in 2011 that shut down some parts makers led to weeks of stalled North American output for the companies. Toyota has enlarged its Princeton, Ind., plant to boost production of the Highlander SUV and will begin making Lexus ES sedans in Georgetown, Ky., next year.

“Bigger manufacturers need to know that over a longer cycle they have a stable cost base,” Michael Robinet, managing director at consultant IHS Automotive, said by phone from Davos, Switzerland, site of the World Economic Forum. “It makes much more sense to stabilize the currency by taking it out of the equation, and building and selling in the same location.”

Honda is about to open a new plant in Celaya, Mexico, to build Fit hatchbacks and in 2015 will start making Acura NSX supercars at a new, experimental factory in Marysville, Ohio.

Hyundai Motor Co., South Korea’s largest automaker, also reported building a record 399,495 Sonata sedans and Elantra compacts at its Montgomery, Ala., plant last year. U.S. production for the Seoul-based company was also boosted by a further 105,647 units of its Santa Fe SUV produced at affiliate Kia Motors Corp.’s West Point, Ga., plant, according to the Automotive News Data Center.

David Phillips and Debra Domby of Automotive News contributed to this report

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