TOKYO -- Japan's top five auto makers, with the exception of Mitsubishi Motors Corp., all boosted their worldwide vehicle production in 2003, mainly driven by a sharp expansion in overseas markets, data showed on Monday.
Toyota Motor Corp., which overtook Ford Motor Co. as the world's second-biggest car maker behind General Motors Corp. in 2003, built 6.078 million vehicles that year, up 7.8 percent from the previous year, as production abroad grew for the 12th straight year.
As a group, Toyota and its subsidiaries Hino Motors Ltd. and Daihatsu Motor Co. made 6.826 million vehicles, up 8.1 percent.
Second-largest Japanese auto maker Honda Motor Co. was hurt by a 15.5 percent demand-led drop in domestic output, but it more than made up for that with a 19 percent jump in production abroad. As a result, global output rose 2.4 percent to 2.968 million cars.
That tally put Honda just 10,000 units above Nissan Motor Co., whose production expanded 9.8 percent to 2.958 million units as it flooded the markets with new models.
Nissan's rise was most notable in the profitable U.S. market, where output jumped 28 percent as the company began local production of its popular Maxima sedan early last year and as its high-volume Canton, Mississippi light truck plant started up.
Nissan's production also climbed by double-digit percentages in Europe, driven by brisk sales of the new Micra compact car.
Fifth-ranked Japanese auto maker Mazda Motor Corp. recorded the biggest percentage rise in global output, by 10.4 percent to 1.042 million units, as its overseas production leapt 42 percent on robust sales in Europe.
Troubled Mitsubishi Motors was the sole loser, with global output slipping 5.7 percent to 1.580 million units, mainly hurt by a fall in North American production to bring inventory levels down.
Mitsubishi's output in Japan fell 3.4 percent to 749,371 units as exports eased, although it managed a 3.4 percent rise in domestic sales -- the first increase since 1995.