Toyota will begin shipping the Camry sedan from its Georgetown, Kentucky assembly plant to South Korea – part of its continuing effort to offset a painful shift in exchange rates making it increasingly difficult to export from Japan.
The maker also will be shipping minivans from the U.S. to Korea. The significant increase in shipping costs will be more than offset by more favorable exchange rates, however. The yen has risen in value by nearly a third over the past year and is now trading in the range of 75 to the dollar.
The decision to move both Camry and Sienna production from Japan to the U.S. underscores the continued hollowing out of the Japanese automotive production base – despite promises by Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda to maintain manufacturing operations in the home market. But manufacturers like Toyota and Honda have been forced to respond to not only the rising yen but also the risk of natural disasters that can devastate the island nation – like the earthquake and tsunami that struck on March 11 bringing Japanese automotive production to a halt.
“The export of thousands of Camry vehicles to South Korea is an important development that builds on the great work of our talented U.S. team members as well as our extensive investments across North America to help maintain a strong, stable base of U.S. jobs,” said Yoshimi Inaba, COO of Toyota Motor North America. “We look forward to other opportunities to continue growing exports from our American operations.”
Toyota exported its first vehicle from the U.S. in 1988, but the pace has been ramping up in recent years and for 2011 is expected to total 100,000 vehicles, a year-over-year increase of 30%. Currently, American-made vehicles are being shipped to 19 countries.
The Georgetown plant is Toyota’s largest outside Japan and employs 7,000 American workers.
Toyota says the first of the American-made Camry sedans will reach South Korea by January 2012. It began shipping the Sienna to Korea last month from a plant in Indiana.
Toyota isn’t the only maker looking to take advantage of the week dollar. Honda, BMW and Mercedes-Benz have also been increasing exports from the U.S. and are investing heavily to expand their North American production operations.
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