TOKYO - Japan's new-vehicle exports opened 2003 on the same strong note that prevailed throughout last year. They rose 16.8 percent in January, the 13th consecutive month of increase.
Main drivers for the rise to 383,168 continued to be shipments to the United States, Europe and Asia.
The robust exports, combined with a previously reported 3.0 percent gain in Japanese sales in January, also expanded January production by 9.1 percent to 853,378. It was the seventh straight month of gain.
U.S.-bound shipments jumped 10.6 percent, while exports to Europe leapt 13.1 percent. Shipments to Asia surged 79.1 percent, supported by strong Chinese demand.
China's entry into the World Trade Organization in 2001, which cut tariffs for imported vehicles, helped buoy January's exports to the emerging market by 673.3 percent. The total of 8,707 was nearly one-fourth of Japan's total shipments to Asia.
Four of Japan's five biggest automakers lifted their total exports. But in North America-bound shipments, only two of the five gained. Nissan's exports to North America soared 44.8 percent, primarily because of the Murano and Infiniti G35, which weren't on sale a year ago.
Toyota's exports to North America climbed 35.5 percent, thanks mainly to the Corolla compact and 4Runner SUV.
Mazda posted the biggest decline in North America-bound shipments, a 28.2 percent drop.
Honda's exports to North America fell 15.8 percent, as rising shipments of the CR-V from England to the United States replaced those sent to the United States from Japan.
Mitsubishi's exports to North America slid by 13.5 percent.
Among exporters to Europe, gainers included Honda, Nissan and Mitsubishi.
Honda more than doubled its European shipments, and Mitsubishi's nearly doubled. Nissan's European-bound exports jumped 42.9 percent.
Each of the five major automakers raised their Japanese production in January. Output rose 9.5 percent at Toyota, 21.7 percent at Nissan, 3.6 percent at Mazda, 4.5 percent at Mitsubishi and 8.6 percent at Honda.