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Toyota, Nissan Global Production Up In May

Automakers reported generally solid growth in global output and exports as robust demand in Asia and emerging markets cushioned the effects of a softening U.S. market.

TOKYO (AP) -- Japanese automakers reported generally solid growth in global production and exports in May, as robust demand in Asia and emerging markets cushioned the effects of a softening U.S. market.

The country's top automaker Toyota Motor Corp. said Thursday overall global production rose 3.6 percent from the previous year to 805,948 vehicles on strong output in Asia.

Toyota's overseas production gained 4.3 percent to 400,749 vehicles, while production in Japan expanded 2.9 percent to 405,199 units.

The company said its exports from Japan advanced slightly to 221,396 vehicles -- the eighth consecutive month of increase -- mainly due to shipments to Asia and Oceania.

Toyota and U.S. rival General Motors Corp. are locked in a dead heat for the title of world's No. 1 automaker. Toyota in December said it aimed to sell 9.85 million vehicles this year -- a figure that would surpass the industry record of 9.55 million cars set by GM in 1978.

But earlier this week, a top Toyota executive expressed doubts that the company could surpass the 2.62 million vehicles it sold last year in the U.S. amid an economic slowdown and soaring oil prices that are hurting all automakers.

GM, which does not release sales projections, has particularly struggled this year as buyers flee from SUVs and large pickup trucks. The company revealed plans for further production cuts Monday, on top of its announcement earlier this month that it will close four North American plants by 2010.

The shift in consumer preference to smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles has helped Japanese automakers like Toyota and Nissan gain a competitive edge in an increasingly uncertain market.

Nissan Motor Corp. said global production in May rose 5.1 percent to 275,918 vehicles.

Japan's third-biggest automaker cited healthy demand for export models such as the Rogue and Murano for boosting domestic production 40.3 percent to 100,299 vehicles. Overseas output retreated 8.1 percent to 175,619 units, as vigorous production in Asia, China and Latin America wasn't enough to offset declines in the U.S. and Mexico.

Nissan said it exported 55,880 vehicles, a 93.4 percent gain, from Japan in the month, while global sales grew 11.0 percent to 329,637 units.

Honda Motor Co., however, said its global output fell 3.7 percent to 316,674 vehicles in May, despite having hit company production records in China and Asia for the month. Production in Japan fell for the ninth straight month to 92,358 units.

Exports from Japan to North America fell, though shipments to Asia and Europe posted solid gains, Honda said.

Hiroshima-based Mazda Motor Corp., said global production climbed 14.2 percent to 105,654 vehicles.

Mazda, an affiliate of Ford Motor Co., said domestic production jumped 19.9 percent, while overseas production dropped 7.2 percent on production changes ahead of the introduction of the new Mazda6 in the U.S. It reported a 17.2 percent jump in exports in May on robust shipments to North America, Europe, Oceania and other markets.

Mitsubishi Motors Corp.'s global output declined 8.7 percent to 98,959 vehicles -- the third consecutive monthly drop.

Its domestic output expanded 7.8 percent to 62,039 units, on increased production of its new Lancer sedan and Outlander compact crossover SUV for overseas markets. But overseas output fell 27.5 percent to 36,920 vehicles, as the company wound down production at Malaysia's Proton Holdings.

Driven by a 51.7 percent rise in shipments to Asia, Mitsubishi's overall exports gained 6.1 percent to 51,333 units.

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