CHICAGO -- Toyota (IW 1000/8) will begin exporting U.S.-built cars to Russia and Ukraine in the coming months, the automaker said Tuesday.

The announcement comes after Toyota's U.S. exports hit a new record by jumping 45% to more than 124,000 vehicles in 2012.

The decision marks the first time Toyota has exported U.S.-built vehicles to Europe, where it also has a significant manufacturing presence.

"We'll continue to look for (export) opportunities in Europe whether it be for Venza or other models," Toyota spokesman Javier Morenos said.

Toyota will begin shipments of the 2013 Venza sport utility vehicle shortly after production begins in April. It expects to export about 5,000 Venzas to Russia and Ukraine in the first year of sales.

The expansion will bring the number of countries to which Toyota exports U.S.-built vehicles to 23.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2013