TOKYO -- As Toyota Motor Corp. cranks up its North American factories, it will reduce exports from Japan, right?
Wrong. Toyota is pushing its exports to new highs, and North America is the prime target.
In the current fiscal year ending March 31, 2006, Toyota expects to export 1.04 million vehicles to the United States, Canada and Mexico, up more than 20 percent from a year earlier. That's a record. Toyota's annual exports to North America have never topped 1 million units.
"Demand has been stronger than expected," says Takeshi Suzuki, Toyota's senior managing director in charge of the finance and accounting group. "It's not proper for us to keep customers waiting. So we have expanded capacity both at home and abroad."
Toyota, ever mindful of its image in America, is boosting imports as it touts itself as an all-American company.
"We are proud to be an integrated part of the American economy and integral partner to the communities where we do business," Dennis Cuneo, senior vice president of Toyota Motor North America, said in August.
Actually, Toyota has kept the ratio of imports to total U.S. sales steady in recent years. In 2000, imports accounted for 38.4 percent of U.S. sales. This year through October they accounted for 37.9 percent.
Other Japanese carmakers are not joining Toyota's export drive. This fiscal year, Nissan Motor Co.'s exports to North America are down. Honda Motor Co.'s are up, but well below the peak set in 2000.
Toyota ships all Scion and Lexus vehicles from Japan except the Lexus RX 330 SUV, which is built in Canada.
Among the major Toyota-brand vehicles exported to the United States are the Toyota Prius, 4Runner, Highlander, Land Cruiser and RAV4.