TOKYO (AP) -- Major Japanese carmakers ramped up foreign production to record levels in December, they said Monday, as they continued to move factories abroad and global sales showed tentative signs of a recovery.
Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co. said they made more cars at their international factories then ever before during the month, while Honda Motor Co. had record production in China and other parts of Asia.
Toyota said it made 636,102 cars abroad in December, up 33 percent from the same month a year earlier and its fifth straight month of increases. The company has in recent months been making more cars to keep up with global sales, which have gradually recovered compared to a year ago, when the economic crisis unfolded.
Company spokesman Paul Nolasco said the numbers were a positive sign of a turnaround, but stopped short of saying that a full recovery was under way.
"Turning around and getting there are totally different," he said.
Japanese car companies have been gradually shifting production outside of the country, so that cars are made closer to where they are sold. The spike has also been driven by increasing car sales outside of the country, in part due to government measures to spur buying, such as rebates and tax benefits.
For 2009, Toyota's worldwide production fell 22 percent from the previous year. Last year, the company made just over half of its vehicles outside of Japan.
Nissan Motor Co. said its production outside of Japan shot up 69 percent in December to 183,422 vehicles, also a record for the month. This included an 81 percent increase in U.S. production.
Honda said its foreign output for December was only 3.4 percent higher globally, but marked the first increase since October of 2008. Production in China shot up over 65 percent.
Both Nissan and Honda said global production fell for 2009.