updated 1/25/2005 9:12:55 AM ET 2005-01-25T14:12:55

Japan's leading automakers made more vehicles than ever last year as customers bought more of their cars and trucks, the companies said Tuesday.

Toyota Motor Corp., Japan's biggest automaker, said its global production jumped 10.6 percent during 2004 to 6.723 million vehicles — a record high. Almost half, or a little over 3 million, of the automobiles were made at plants outside Japan.

"We've been able to come out with stimulating products that meet the demands of customers," said Paul Nolasco, a spokesman for Toyota. "We're making what the customer wants."

In the United States, Toyota's biggest market, sales surged 10.4 percent to 2.06 million.

Nissan Motor Co. said it produced 8.0 percent more vehicles for a total of 3.194 million during the year. Production at plants outside Japan soared 18.1 percent to a record high of 1.775 million.

Strong sales of the Atlima sedan and the Murano SUV helped Nissan's U.S. sales soar 24.1 percent to an all-time-high of 985,989 vehicles. Sales in Japan fell 4.9 percent amid a lack of new models during the first half, but sales in Europe inched higher.

At Honda Motor Co., Japan's third biggest automaker, global production climbed 8.7 percent to a record high of 3.181 million vehicles in 2004. Both domestic sales and exports rose from the year earlier, the company said.

Mazda Motor Corp., which is about a third owned by Ford Motor Co. of the United States, said its overseas production jumped 31 percent to 315,691 vehicles while its domestic output rose 2.2 percent to 818,730 vehicles.

Mitsubishi Motors Corp. bucked the trend, however, as it struggled to rebuild after a recall scandal.

Global output for Mitsubishi Motors Corp. dropped 10.8 percent in part because demand in Japan tumbled after the automaker said in June that it had continued to systematically cover up defects in its vehicles to avoid recalling them.

The admission came after Mitsubishi vowed in 2000 that it had left such business practices behind. Japan sales for Mitsubishi plunged 41.5 percent in 2004.

Mitsubishi is currently drawing up a restructuring plan that will involve a fresh cash injection and alliances with other automakers.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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