TOKYO - As expected, Japan's carmakers are ratcheting up their exports now that sales at home have fallen since the April 1 sales-tax increase.
April exports jumped 20.4 percent from a year earlier, to 368,393, pushing Japan's vehicle production up 11.4 percent, to 887,150, the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association said.
As reported, sales in Japan in April fell 15.1 percent after record sales in March. The rebuilding of inventories of select models provided some support to domestic production, but exports were the main force behind the production rise.
Exports to Europe rose faster than those to the United States. While U.S.-bound shipments climbed 11.7 percent, to 100,966, exports to Europe jumped 26.7 percent, to 97,706. Exports rose 45.8 percent to the United Kingdom, 42.5 percent to Germany and 48.2 percent to France.
HOT SPOTS VARY
The carmakers said different destinations led their individual export gains.
Honda Motor Co.'s 70.8 percent export surge was paced by shipments of its hot CR-V sport-utility to Europe and the United States. Honda's exports to Europe soared 131.7 percent, and those to North America climbed 93.9 percent.
A 51.7 percent gain in Mitsubishi Motors Corp.'s total exports was led by a 97 percent jump in exports to Europe.
Latin America and Oceania contributed the most to Toyota Motor Corp.'s relatively modest 1.8 percent gain. Toyota's exports to North America slipped 2.4 percent.
Nissan Motor Co. said exports rose to all regions except Europe, which posted a 10.2 percent drop, and Africa. Mazda Motor Co.'s exports to Europe rose 38 percent, but shipments to North America fell 8.7 percent.
HOLDING BACK EXPORTS
Toyota 'restrained its exports to the United States, due to political concerns,' said Edward Brogan, Tokyo-based auto analyst for Salomon Brothers. Japan's trade surplus with the United States in April was $4.1 billion, up 174 percent from a year earlier.
He added that Honda 'does not feel the same pressure' to restrain exports to the United States as does Toyota. Honda builds in North America 77 percent of the vehicles it sells in the United States, compared to 62 percent for Toyota.
April production was off 18.8 percent from March's robust 1.1 million. March was the first month to top 1 million since March 1995.
Truck output fell 2 percent in April, to 139,392. Likewise, production of minivehicles, those with engines under 660cc, fell 6.2 percent, to 134,118.
Honda Motor Co.'s 23.3 percent output rise led all major makers. Next, in nearly a dead heat, were Nissan Motor Co., up 17.8 percent, and Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., up 17.4 percent.