TOKYO -- Japan's new-vehicle exports in May jumped 25.6 percent from a year earlier, marking the fifth straight month of increase.
Shipments were robust almost across the board, but particularly to North America.
The rise, to 360,246, was supported by a 34.1 percent leap in U.S.-bound exports and a 69.7 percent surge in shipments to Canada, according to the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association.
The brisk exports contributed to Japan's improved production in May, which increased 9.3 percent to 803,323 for a second straight monthly gain. Sales in Japan, as earlier reported, were little changed.
Output rose 9.9 percent at Toyota Motor Corp., 16.5 percent at Nissan Motor Co., 11.9 percent at Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and 15.9 percent at Honda Motor Co. But Mazda Motors Corp.'s production in May slipped 0.9 percent.
All five major automakers posted double-digit gains in their exports, led by stronger shipments to North America.
Mitsubishi's shipments to North America surged 180.3 percent, buoyed by strong demand for the redesigned Lancer.
Honda's North American exports rose 78.5 percent. Nissan shipments there were up 32.3 percent; Toyota was up 29.8 percent; and Mazda, by 2.3 percent.
But strong Japanese exports to the North American market may lose steam.
The strength of the yen against the dollar, combined with concerns that the U.S. economy is struggling to recover, may press Japanese automakers to downshift their exports.
A stronger Japanese currency would reduce the value of dollars earned in overseas markets when converted into yen.
Japan's overall exports to Europe rose 15 percent in May, with three of the Big 5 automakers boosting their shipments there.
Nissan's exports to that region soared 160.2 percent, supported by the X-Trail sport-utility; Mitsubishi was up 139.3 percent, in part because of comparison with a weak year-earlier month; and Mazda gained 29.9 percent with its redesigned 6 sedan, which was introduced in Europe in March.
In contrast, Honda tumbled 8.3 percent, while Toyota's European-bound shipments slid 6.4 percent.
Asia-bound exports rose 22.6 percent in May. They were up for a second straight month, benefiting from stronger demand from China. Japanese shipments to China jumped 63.2 percent to 10,377, accounting for 27.2 percent of its total Asia-bound exports.
China's entry to the World Trade Organization last December lowered tariffs on imported cars, boosting Japan's interest in selling vehicles there.