TOKYO -- The Japanese auto industry eked out 0.3 percent growth in domestic production in 2003 as a surge in replacement demand for trucks offset a fall in output of passenger cars, data showed Friday.
Production of cars, trucks and buses totaled 10.286 million units last year, the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association said, rising for the second straight year also thanks to healthy demand for Japanese cars overseas.
Output of passenger cars fell 1.6 percent to 8.478 million units for the first decline in two years. Truck production grew by 11 percent to 1.747 million units, rising for the first time in nine years as stricter emissions regulations in parts of Japan forced owners to replace older vehicles.
Although the pace of truck production growth has been slowing, industry watchers expect domestic production to stay firm this year as automakers continue to launch models at home and export popular cars overseas.
Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co., Japan's top two automakers in terms of global sales volume, have both forecast bigger domestic output for calendar 2004, with rises of 1 percent and 5.2 percent, respectively.
But the pace of growth is expected to be sharper overseas, as they try to build more cars where they are sold. Many automakers have made up for a shortage in output capacity abroad by exporting from Japan.
Exports have been especially robust to the fast-growing Chinese and other Asian markets, where global automakers are scrambling to build factories.
Vehicle exports grew 1.2 percent in 2003 to 4.756 million units, up for the second straight year.
For December, exports jumped 10.6 percent to 448,168 units, while total output fell 0.7 percent from the year earlier to 817,940 vehicles.