Toyota announced today it will export Camry sedans from Kentucky and Indiana to South Korea, making it the sixth U.S.-built vehicle the Japanese automaker exports. About 7,000 Camry sedans will ship from assembly plants in Georgetown, Ky., and Lafayette, Ind., next year, Toyota says, with shipments arriving in Korea in January.
The move comes on the heels of the U.S.-Korean Free Trade Agreement, which reduced auto tariffs and streamlined environmental and safety regulations for U.S.-made vehicles exported to the country. The exports shouldn't affect the redesigned 2012 Camry's reported 92% domestic-parts content (59% for the Camry Hybrid), which could make it a DPC champ once the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration releases figures for 2012. The prior Camry, whose DPC ranged from 70% to 80% for non-hybrid models, has topped Cars.com's American Made Index three years running.
Production costs have traditionally kept U.S. exports down. CSM analyst Joe Barker told us last summer he estimates less than 5% of total North American auto production leaves the continent. But Toyota's move — and the U.S.-Korea agreement — may signal a shift. The automaker began exporting Indiana-built Sienna minivans to South Korea last month, and Toyota is not the only company shipping U.S. cars elsewhere. GM inked a two-year deal last January to send $900 million worth of auto parts to China. Last year, BMW said its Spartanburg, S.C., plant exported more than seven out of every 10 cars to global markets. Indeed, the U.S.' September trade deficit fell to $44.9 billion partly because of increasing auto exports.
Toyota's Camry exports will represent about 2% of U.S. Camrys built if production holds steady. The automaker is on pace to build about 290,000 Camry and Camry Hybrid sedans in Kentucky and Indiana this year, according to Automotive News data.