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Another Banner Year for Transplants

North American output tops 4 million light vehicles It was yet another banner year for the so-called transplant automakers as they neared the end of the year poised to produce more than 4 million vehicles in North America.That's a leap of a little more than 9% over the 1999 tally and marks yet another North American output record for automakers with home bases in Europe and Asia.The 345,000-unit boost

North American output tops 4 million light vehicles It was yet another banner year for the so-called transplant automakers as they neared the end of the year poised to produce more than 4 million vehicles in North America.

That's a leap of a little more than 9% over the 1999 tally and marks yet another North American output record for automakers with home bases in Europe and Asia.

The 345,000-unit boost in production over 1999 figures came significantly from Mexico, with a 152,000 increase. The U.S. transplants saw production totals up by about 150,000. Transplant numbers in Canada were up by 25,000 - a 50,000 unit gain for Honda offset by a 25,000-unit decline by Toyota.

The future points to a continued rise in output by the transplants:

* Fuji Heavy Industries will add a 24,000-unit engine plant adjacent to the Subaru-Isuzu plant in Lafayette, IN, by 2003.

* Honda Motor Co. Ltd. is building a plant in Lincoln, AL, to produce the hot-selling Odyssey minivan and its accompanying V-6 engine. The plant will begin production in 2002.

* Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. also selects a location in the deep South - Jackson, MS - for another assembly plant. Construction of the 250,000-unit plant located 15 miles north of Jackson is scheduled to begin in April 2001. Production there won't begin until summer 2003. The $930 million plant will produce a fullsize pickup truck, a fullsize sport/utility vehicle and the next generation Nissan minivan. It also will pump in $1 billion to expand operations at Smyrna, TN, to increase capacity there from 380,000 units a year to up to 500,000.

* And Korean automaker Hyundai Motor Co. Ltd. says it plans to build a 300,000-unit plant in the U.S. for production in 2003. No site has been named, yet.

AutoAlliance Struggling AutoAlliance International Inc., Ford-owned, but still technically a Mazda Motor Corp. operation, in Flat Rock, MI, was down nearly 35% from 165,000 to 108,000 with numbers off for both Mercury Cougar, 50%, and Mazda 626, 22%.

BMW BMW Mfg. Corp. pulled out all the stops to hit full production of more than 40,000 units of its new X5 SUV at Spartanburg, SC. Z3 output was off by 20%, falling by about 10,000, to a little less than 40,000 units, due to declining demand both in the U.S. and abroad.

CAMI CAMI Automotive Inc., the General Motors Corp./Suzuki Motor Corp. joint operation in Ingersoll, Ont., likely will finish the year with less than a 1% increase from a little more than 112,000 to 113,000 units in total output of Chevy Metro, Suzuki Swift, Chevy Tracker and Suzuki Vitara. And the plant will eliminate production of the Metro and Swift in spring 2001, idling about 500 of the plant's 2,300 workers.

Car production will be lucky to hit 30,000 this year. Some workers may be retained to help with increased production of the LT and ZR2 models of the Tracker and Vitara.

Honda Honda of America Mfg. Corp. joined the million-unit club for 2000 with North American output from plants in El Salto, Mex-ico; Anna, East Liberty and Marysville, OH; and Alliston, Ont.

Output at Marysville was headed for a 450,000-unit total with Accord making up about 340,000 units and the rest coming from Acura CL and TL models.

East Liberty Civic numbers were down by about 6% but were headed for a better than 225,000-unit total. The fall-off was due to changeover for the new Civic. Honda got its numbers boost from Canada as the Odyssey minivan hit full production stride in Alliston, adding more than 60,000 units to finish off the year at more than 150,000 units. Civic production in Alliston also was off by 6% due to the rolling new-model changeover for the Civic and was slated to end the year at nearly 160,000 units.

El Salto nearly doubled its output of Accords from 10,000 in 1999 to more than 19,000 this year thanks to the start of exports to the U.S. market.

Mitsubishi Mitsubishi Motor Mfg. of America Inc. posted a 40% boost at Normal, IL, with output rising by 63,000 to 223,000 units on the strength of the Eclipse and Galant. Output for Chrysler Corp. models was down as the plant dropped the Chrysler Avenger and retooled for Chrysler Sebring and Dodge Stratus.

Nissan Nissan Motor Mfg. Corp. upped its Mexican output from 186,000 to 317,000 in the last year, mainly by moving its Sentra car production from Smyrna, TN, to Cuernavaca and Aguascalientes, making room for a bump in production for Frontier pickups and Xterra SUVs at its U.S. facility.

U.S. production rose to nearly 380,000 units - a better than 16% rise - driven by the increased light-truck production, which was up by more than 50% and neared the 230,000-unit mark. Altima numbers at Smyrna held steady at about 150,000.

NUMMI Output at New United Motor Mfg. Inc., the Fremont, CA, joint venture of GM and Toyota Motor Corp., was off 6.5% from 367,000 to 343,000. Chevy Prizm numbers held steady, making up about 50,000 units, or 15% of the plant total, but Toyota Corolla and Tacoma small pickup numbers were both down by 8% through October. Corolla is pegged at about 150,000 units and Tacoma will near 145,000 for the year. Prizm will cease at the end of the 2001 model year, likely to be replaced by a small Pontiac model.

Subaru-Isuzu This unique marriage of two Japan-based automakers based in Lafayette, IN, was headed for about a 9% increase for the year. Isuzu Rodeo SUV output was up by better than 20% and headed for nearly 75,000 units for the year. Subaru Legacy sedan production recorded a similar percentage increase and was headed for a nearly 110,000-unit year. Honda Passport output held steady at about 22,000 for the year. Subaru parent Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. announced in July that more assembly capacity would be added to the Indiana plant until it delivers an additional 70,000 Subaru units annually. That likely will be the STX, a four-seater concept on the Legacy platform with the back of the vehicle cut off to provide a short cargo bed, not entirely unlike the quirky Subaru Brat of the 1970s.

Toyota Toyota's North American output will top 1.1 million units for the year. U.S. output grew by better than 9% to add 80,000 units to a total of about 915,000 units (including NUMMI) for the year. The big gain came on the truck side - Tundra pickup tallies at Princeton, IN, were up 140% to 120,000 - but the Georgetown, KY-built Avalon also marked a nearly 100% gain to close the year at more than 120,000 units. Camry sedan production at Georgetown finished the year at about 255,000 units, off 14%. Overall output at Georgetown was up by 5%.

Camry Solara 2-door coupe and the Corolla sedan both equally contributed to 25,000-unit falloff in production at Cambridge, Ont. Toyota's Canada production was pegged at 186,000, a 12% drop.

Volkswagen New Beetles and Jettas rolled off the line at a steady pace in Puebla, Mexico, Volkswagen AG's sole production source for vehicles in North America. The plant has been operating at near peak capacity for the last two years, but will still manage a 2.5% increase in production to more than 420,000 units.

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