Highlighting efforts by major Japanese auto makers to expand their North American operations, Honda Motor announced its US vehicle exports last year exceeded its Japanese imports for the first time.

Honda said it exported 108,705 US-made vehicles last year to 50 countries, and imported 88,537 vehicles from Japan. Overall, Honda said it built a record 1.3 million vehicles in the States last year.

“We expect to remain…a net exporter and strengthen our position as a net exporter,” Rick Schostek, senior vice president of Honda North America, said in a conference call on Monday.

The milestone comes as Honda and other Japanese auto makers are launching a new round of manufacturing plant expansion in North America, primarily targeting the US market, to hedge against currency swings and trade politics.

Honda, which opened its first US car plant in Marysville, Ohio, in 1982, has seven North American car factories capable of building up to 1.72 million cars and light trucks. It plans to open a new factory in Mexico this year that will be its first North American production site for its Fit subcompact car.

Toyota also is exporting more vehicles from its US factories, and plans to announce final 2013 figures next month. Nissan also said it exported 100,608 vehicles from its US factories in 2013, up 37% from 2012, but fewer than the 338,000 Nissan and Infiniti vehicles it imported to the States. Overall, Nissan projected last year that exports from the US would come close to 14% of total production, up from 12% in 2012. Nissan is moving production of certain models, including its Murano sport utility, to US factories from Japan.

Via The Wall Street Journal


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