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Toyota, Honda set North American production records

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Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. set production records at their North American auto-assembly plants last year even as the yen weakened against the dollar for a second consecutive year.

Both companies have major manufacturing plants in Indiana.

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 announced Tuesday. While the gains weren’t matched by records in U.S. sales, exports expanded to markets including South Korea and Latin America.

“Bigger manufacturers need to know that over a longer cycle they have a stable cost base,” Michael Robinet, managing director at consultant IHS Automotive, said by phone from Davos, Switzerland, site of the World Economic Forum. “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 and Honda, along with Nissan Motor Co., kept expanding North American vehicle and component plants as insulation against currency swings that can make imports unprofitable, and 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.

The yen, which surged in 2011, declined 17.6 percent against the dollar in 2013, after losing 11 percent of its value compared with the U.S. currency in 2012.

Toyota has enlarged its Princeton plant in Indiana to boost production of Highlander sport-utility vehicles and will begin making Lexus ES sedans in Georgetown, Ky., next year.

Honda, which has about 2,000 employees at its Indiana plant in Greensburg, 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, Ohio.

U.S. sales units for both Toyota and Honda are based in Torrance, Calif.

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