Toyota Motor Corp. resumed full production at all North American plants this week and said it will expand U.S. output of small engines as Japan’s largest automaker works to boost sales slowed by a March earthquake.
As of this week, “all plants and suppliers in North America are at full speed, and most are working overtime,” Steve St. Angelo, executive vice president for North American engineering and manufacturing, told reporters Tuesday in Torrance, California. “Our parts problems are now behind us.”
Toyota will also add production of four-cylinder engines at its plant in Huntsville, Alabama, St. Angelo said. The company will hire 240 more workers at the factory, which already makes six- and eight-cylinder engines for Toyota models built in the region, he said. Four-cylinder output will start late this month, said Mike Goss, a Toyota spokesman.
The company briefly halted production after the record quake and tsunami in March and lost sales in markets including the U.S. as reduced supplies of parts and power in Japan led to vehicle shortages. Through August, the automaker’s U.S. sales fell 7.8 percent as the industrywide total rose 10.5 percent.
Toyota already makes four-cylinder engines in Georgetown, Kentucky, and Buffalo, West Virginia. The added production will be for Corollas to be built at the company’s Blue Springs, Mississippi, plant, which opens in November, St. Angelo said.
Production of the 2012 Camry that goes on sale this week is accelerating at the Georgetown plant, the company’s largest in North America, said St. Angelo, who joined Toyota in 2005 after working for the former General Motors Corp. for 30 years.
Leaf exports to China
Nissan Motor Co. plans to export its Leaf electric car to China for fleet sales, the head of the company’s Chinese venture said.
The carmaker will be the first to export an electric car to China, Kimiyasu Nakamura, president of Dongfeng Motor Co., told reporters Tuesday in Yokohama, where Nissan is based. He didn’t say when exports will begin.
“If sales numbers of the Leaf go up, we may discuss producing the Leaf in China,” Nakamura said.
Nissan had sold about 11,000 Leafs globally as of mid-July after introducing the car in December, the company said Aug. 2.
The carmaker plans to introduce seven additional electric models by fiscal 2016 and is targeting sales of 1.5 million electric vehicles over the next six years along with its French partner, Renault SA.
Nissan builds the Leaf in Oppama, Kanagawa Prefecture, and is planning to add output in Tennessee and the U.K.
The carmaker may start producing the Leaf in China after 2013, Chief Operating Officer Toshiyuki Shiga said in December.
Meanwhile, Nakamura also said Dongfeng plans in principle to procure locally all parts for its Venucia brand cars to be marketed exclusively in China from next year.
“Chinese people are playing the main role in development and design,” he said. “We will use (parts) made by local manufacturers in order to be (price) competitive.”
The automaker plans to carry out thorough cost cuts by procuring parts as much as possible from non-Japanese parts manufacturers in China, where the government focuses on nurturing original brands, Nakamura said.
Mainly targeting consumers who live in regional cities and are buying cars for the first time, Nissan plans to launch the first car under the low-priced Venucia brand in 2012 and aims to sell 300,000 vehicles by 2015.
Nissan’s rival Honda Motor Co. launched in April a compact sedan under its original Chinese brand Everus.
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