TOKYO - Japan's new-vehicle exports in 2003 rose 1.2 percent as robust shipments to Europe and Asia offset anemic exports to North America.
The Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association predicts that exports will grow again in 2004, but did not say by how much. The trade group expects a recovery in U.S. and European demand and says sales in Asia are likely to remain strong.
Altogether, Japanese vehicle manufacturers shipped 4,756,339 light vehicles overseas last year.
Europe-bound shipments surged 22.1 percent on new-car launches and currency swings. The yen's weakness against the euro has made Japanese-built vehicles more competitive in that region, says the Japanese trade association.
Exports to Asia jumped 22.8 percent, the biggest increase of any region. China accounted for more than one-quarter of overall Japanese shipments within Asia.
Exports to the United States slid 13.4 percent as some Japanese automakers boosted production in the world's largest market.
The strong yen against the dollar put a brake on Japanese exports to the U.S. market, says the Japanese trade association. The currency swing meant less profit in yen from dollars earned overseas.
Healthy exports overall - combined with an earlier reported 0.6 percent increase in domestic sales last year - pushed Japanese production up in 2003 by 0.3 percent to 10,286,318. It was the second straight year that production topped the 10 million mark.