By Alan Ohnsman
Honda’s Accord beat Toyota’s Camry in U.S. output and led in North American car production last year as Asia-based automakers set assembly records in the region amid rebounding sales.
Honda built 466,695 Accords at its Marysville, Ohio, plant in 2013, 17 percent more than the prior year and putting it ahead of the 445,973 Camrys made at Toyota’s Georgetown, Ky., plant and affiliate Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd.’s Subaru factory in Indiana.
While Camry outsold Accord in the U.S., Tokyo-based Honda raised exports of its midsize model.
“There was a significant increase in exports,” said Ron Lietzke, a spokesman for Honda’s North American unit in Marysville.
U.S. output of the Accord topped U.S. sales by 100,000 units last year, with cars going to markets including South Korea, Russia and Saudi Arabia, he said.
Toyota and Honda, along with Nissan, kept expanding North American vehicle and component plants as insulation against currency swings that can make imports unprofitable. The move was also to avoid over-reliance on parts sourced overseas. Natural disasters in Asia in 2011 that shut down some parts makers led to weeks of stalled North American output for the companies.
Toyota, the world’s largest automaker, built 1.86 million Toyota and Lexus cars and light trucks at U.S., Canadian and Mexican plants, while Tokyo-based Honda made 1.78 million Honda and Acura autos in North America, the companies said. While the gains weren’t matched by records in U.S. sales, exports expanded to markets including the Middle East and Latin America.
Nissan, Japan’s second-largest automaker, built a record 1.47 million cars, crossovers and pickups at its plants in the U.S. and Mexico.
The North American output gains for Japan’s three biggest carmakers happened even as the yen fell in foreign currency exchange against the U.S. dollar for a second consecutive year. The currency, which surged in 2011, declined 17.6 percent against the dollar in 2013, after losing 11 percent of its value in 2012.
“Bigger manufacturers need to know that over a longer cycle they have a stable cost base,” said Michael Robinet, managing director at consultant IHS Automotive. “It makes much more sense to stabilize the currency by taking it out of the equation, and building and selling in the same location.”
Toyota has enlarged its plant in Princeton, Ind., to boost production of Highlander sport utility vehicles and will begin making Lexus ES sedans in the Georgetown factory next year.
Honda is about to open a new plant in Celaya, Mexico, to build Fit hatchbacks and in 2015 will start making Acura NSX supercars at a new, experimental factory in Marysville.
South Korea’s largest automaker Hyundai reported building a record 399,495 Sonata sedans and Elantra compacts at its Montgomery, Ala., plant last year.
U.S. production for the company was also boosted by a further 105,647 units of its Santa Fe SUV produced at affiliate Kia’s West Point, Ga., plant, according to Automotive News Data Center.