Toyota to Halt Camry Exports to North America

Automaker will shift to U.S. production.

Toyota will stop exporting its Camry sedan to North America and fully shift to local production for the vehicle, regarded as one of its signature cars in the United States.

A Toyota spokesman confirmed the move on Sept. 5 as the automaker's latest Camry hybrid went on sale across Japan.

He refused to say if the long-anticipated move is an effort to grapple with the strengthening yen, which has seen Japan's biggest automakers shift more production overseas to maintain competitiveness.

"Production of the Camry was mainly carried out overseas anyway and Japan's exports were only meant to fill the gap between local production and local sales," said a Toyota spokesman.

Exports of the Camry from Japan have been steadily falling in recent years.

In 2008, Toyota exported 8,200 Camry units from Japan to North America, but this fell to 3,200 in 2010, when global Camry sales exceeded 690,000. The automaker has exported just 20 units since the beginning of this year.

The yen is hovering near a postwar high against the dollar, pushed up by safe haven demand as risk-averse investors seek a refuge from markets roiled by worries over the health of the U.S. and European economies. A strong domestic currency erodes the repatriated profits of Japan's exporters, prompting fears that more jobs will move overseas and contribute to a hollowing out of Japanese industry.

The nation's new finance minister, Jun Azumi, said the yen's recent strength is not economically justified, and makes life difficult for Japan's exporters.

He added that he will try to forge a consensus among the Group of Seven industrialized nations that "excessive yen rises" do not benefit the world economy, when finance officials meet in France later this week.

Azumi's predecessor, Yoshihiko Noda, oversaw three interventions to weaken the yen with little lasting impact during his time as finance minister. Noda was confirmed as Japan's sixth premier in five years on Sept. 2.

Azumi also said he wants to cut Japan's corporate tax, which is currently around 40%, as previously proposed by Tokyo, and offer incentives for Japanese firms to keep operating in the country despite the yen's rise.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011

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