Honda Becomes Net U.S. Exporter as Japan Auto Imports Topped

Jan 28, 2014 4:16 pm ET

(Updates with closing ADR price in final paragraph)

Jan. 28 (Bloomberg) -- Honda Motor Co., which makes two of the three cars with the highest North American production levels, became a net U.S. exporter for the first time in 2013, shipping more vehicles overseas than it brought in from Japan.

The Tokyo-based company exported 108,705 Honda and Acura cars and light trucks from U.S. assembly plants last year, while imports from Japan totaled 88,537 units, Honda said in a statement today. It enabled the carmaker to achieve a December 2012 goal to be a net auto exporter from North America within two years.

“This is a historic trend for them, and not from anything that’s happening short term,” said efficiency analyst Jim Womack, author of “The Machine That Changed The World,” a study of auto production. Honda’s view from the start was, “for political and economic reasons you need to be a citizen inside every region where you’re doing big business,” he said.

The first Japanese automaker to build cars in the U.S., starting at its Marysville, Ohio, plant in 1982, has more auto- production capacity in North America than its home market. In 2013, Marysville-produced Accords were the most-built passenger cars in both the U.S. and North America, topping Toyota Motor Corp.’s Camry, with Honda’s Civic compact ranking third.

Accord output surpassed the model’s U.S. sales by 100,000 units last year, with the additional cars being sent to markets including South Korea, Russia and Saudi Arabia. The company built a record 1.78 million autos in the U.S., Canada and Mexico last year and next month opens a plant in Celaya, Mexico, to make Fit subcompacts.

Investment Plans

Investment in North American factories totaled more than $2.7 billion in the past three years, the company said today. With the addition of the Celaya plant, Honda estimates it will be able to build at least 1.92 million autos in the region.

“Achieving net exporter status is a natural result of our commitment and investment in the U.S. and North America,” Tetsuo Iwamura, Honda’s executive vice president and North America chief executive officer, said in the statement.

Ron Lietzke, a spokesman for Honda’s North America unit, didn’t disclose Honda’s export and import figures for Canada and Mexico last year.

Honda’s American depositary receipts fell 0.1 percent to $38.06 at the close in New York. They’ve declined 8 percent this year.

--With assistance from Ma Jie in Tokyo. Editors: Ben Livesey, Niamh Ring