TOKYO - With the biggest production increase among Japan's Big 5 automakers last year, Nissan Motor Co. reclaimed its title as Japan's No. 2 carmaker behind Toyota Motor Corp.
Nissan lost the ranking in 2001 when Honda Motor Co. outpro-duced it in Japan by nearly 115,000 units.
The once-troubled Nissan has shifted from cutting costs to beefing up its lineup with such new models as the March compact, 350Z sports car and Skyline coupe.
The shift to growth boosted Nissan's Japanese output of vehicles by 9.6 percent last year to 1.39 million.
Indeed, Nissan was the only one of the Big 5 - Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and Mazda Motor Corp. - that saw its production in Japan grow faster than its production outside Japan in 2002.
Nissan hasn't released projected output figures for 2003 but said it expects to boost Japanese production again this year.
Toyota, the world's third largest automaker, has been shifting production of compacts such as the Yaris and Corolla to Europe from Japan, while expanding its North American output.
That held its production at home to a 3.9 percent gain.
Toyota's overseas output jumped 20.8 percent to 2.15 million units while Mazda's climbed 21.6 percent to 169,540. Nissan's, meanwhile, rose 6.5 percent to 1.30 million.
Both Honda and Mitsubishi produced more vehicles outside Japan than at home.
Honda's overseas output rose 10.8 percent to 1.51 million compared with 1.38 million in Japan.
Mitsubishi's overseas production, most of which was in Asia outside Japan, rose 14.1 percent to 951,340, while its Japan output rose 4.4 percent to 871,304.
This year, Toyota will face the effects of its globalization even more. It plans to cut its output in Japan by 3 percent while boosting overseas production by 15 percent to 2.48 million, the 11th consecutive year of rise.