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Post Honda 2008 output rose as China offset U.S., Europe

Honda’s global production in 2008 rose to a record high with booming demand in China offsetting sluggish sales in the United States and Europe, while worldwide output by Toyota slumped for the first time in seven years.

Japan’s No. 2 automaker said Wednesday it rolled out a record 3.96 million vehicles, up 1.2 percent year-on-year.

“While our annual production tumbled in Japan, Europe and the United States, output in China continued to grow, helping overall vehicle output rise to a record high,” said Hiroyuki Horiuchi, a spokesman for Honda Motor Co.

Honda’s output in China jumped 11.7 percent to 517,571 units last year. Honda’s Accord sedans and CRV sport-utility vehicles are popular in China where the Japanese auto giant runs four auto plants.

But Honda’s production in the United States fell 2.8 percent to 987,169, marking the first year-on-year decline in four years. Honda’s exports to the United States tumbled 17 percent due to sinking demand amid a recession in the world’s largest economy.

Toyota Motor Corp., which recently dethroned General Motors Corp. as the world’s No. 1 automaker by annual sales, said Wednesday it produced 9.22 million vehicles in 2008, down 2.9 percent from a year earlier. It marked the first year-on-year decline in seven years.

“We struggled to boost production in the main markets, including the United States and Japan, due to falling demand,” said Toyota spokesman Keisuke Kirimoto.

Toyota’s production in the United States dropped 16.2 percent to 1.11 million units in 2008. Output in Japan fell 4 percent to 4.9 million, also the first fall in seven years.

Nissan Motor Co. said its global production last year edged down 1.1 percent to 3.39 million units, falling for the first time in two years.

“Facing slumping demand worldwide, we are adjusting our production accordingly and also trying to reduce inventories of unsold vehicles,” said Mitsuru Yonekawa, a spokesman for Japan’s No.3 automaker.

Nissan’s output in the United States nose-dived 22.5 percent to 545,057, marking the third consecutive year-on-year fall.

“Our business was tough in the United States as sales of large-sized pickup trucks fell sharply,” Yonekawa said.

Battered by slumping global demand and a strong yen, which erodes overseas profits, Japanese automakers are cutting jobs and production to weather the economic downturn.

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