Toyota cancels Japanese Camry exports to North America

Move could increase production capacity, create U.S. plant jobs and lower prices

September 7, 2011   by Matt Powell

TOKYO—In a move that could see Toyota Motor Corp. extend its lead as the top foreign car-maker in North America, the company has announced it will no longer export its class-leading Camry sedans from Japan to North America.

The Japanese automaker says the decision makes financial sense because the Japanese Yen is soaring against the U.S. dollar as the country continues to struggle with the aftermath of March’s earthquake and tsunami disasters and will turn to the U.S. market where the Camry dominates the mid-size sedan market.

Toyota exported only about 1,700 Camry sedans from Japan last year and only when demand was so great that North American production couldn’t keep up.

In the U.S., Toyota has a Camry manufacturing facility in Georgetown, KY, which has an annual capacity of more than 500,000 vehicles. The plant also makes Toyota’s Avalon luxury-sedan and its Venza crossover.

The move could increase Camry sales because it takes some of the exchange rate volatility out of pricing, says Dennis DesRosiers, founder of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants Inc.

“This is a positive. It will help create a few jobs and increase capacity at Toyota’s U.S. plants,” he says. “It should have a positive impact on pricing because of the battering the Yen has taken this year. It would make sense to increase capacity in North America than deal with those Yen issues.”

Toyota is North America’s leading foreign car-maker, but Camry sales fell by 7.3 per cent in 2010.

In Canada, the company controls 8.9 per cent market share, behind only GM, Ford and Chrysler.

And while the Camry has enjoyed a comfortable lead in its class, that lead has dwindled as more companies enter the mid-size sedan segment, most notably the persistence of cheaper options like the Hyundai Sonota and Kia Optima.

Other competitors include the Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, Ford Fusion and Chevrolet Malibu, which are all made at manufacturing facilities in the U.S.

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