Strong yen 'encouraging production outside Japan'

Even after some softening against the US dollar, the strong yen remains a "real headwind" for the growth of Japan-based car makers, according to Renault-Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn.

With the "yen (at) 82 from 76 ... I don't call it a retreat; it is still a huge headwind for all the Japanese exporters," Carlos Ghosn, Renault-Nissan Alliance's chief executive, told a press briefing at the 2012 New York International Auto Show on Wednesday.

Many of those Japanese companies are "moving production out of Japan," Ghosen said.

Nissan is in the midst of moving production of its Leaf electric car to the United States for the US market. That will help cut costs, Ghosn explained.

"The consumer should see the benefit of this," he said, noting that plans were under way to have battery production start in Tennessee in August, to be followed by the cars. European production for the Leaf will be based in Britain.

"We didn't go very aggressively for the promotion of the Leaf," he said, in part because it has not been sold nationwide in the United States. "But the car will be available nationwide in July."

The company is hoping to boost US sales to 20,000 units.

Nissan's figures released Tuesday show its US sales rose 12.5 percent in March compared with a year earlier to 136,317 units, or what the company calls "a record month in company history."

Nissan held sixth place in the US auto market in March, beating Honda -- whose sales fell 8.4 percent to 126,999 units -- for the first time in the United States.

Nissan controlled 9.7 percent of the US market share in March, surpassing Honda's 9 percent, according to the consulting firm Autodata.

General Motors posted figures showing it held 16.4 percent of the US market in March, compared with 15.9 percent for Ford, 14.5 percent for Toyota and 11.4 percent for Chrysler.

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