India, the New Auto Nucleus?

Japanese automaker Toyota (NYS: TM) has had a rough ride this year. Just when it had become the world's top auto manufacturer, the Japanese earthquake and tsunami struck, throwing off production schedules and bringing the nation's entire economy to a standstill.

Back on track
Now after months of recovery and recuperation, Toyota last week announced that its global production in August increased for the first time in more than a year. Global production rose 10.6% to 626,817 automobiles from a year ago as a result of higher production from both its domestic and foreign factories. Toyota is also planning to ramp up its production for the remainder of this year in an attempt to help recover the some of the losses it incurred as a result of the March tsunami. Now, Toyota is looking to start exporting cars from India early next year, as it looks to make the subcontinent one of its key global export hubs.

The Indian highway
Toyota will ship gasoline-engine versions of its Etios Liva hatchback and the Etios sedan to South Africa as part of its export strategy. Toyota's Indian subsidiary, Toyota Kirsolskar, manufactures the Etios from one of its two factories near Bangalore.

The plant can currently produce nearly 80,000 cars a year, with plans in place to boost production to 120,000 by next year and 210,000 by 2013. The joint venture also is expected to produce 100,000 engines a year from the third quarter of 2012 and 240,000 transmissions a year by early 2013. These plans, coupled with a venture into the export market, provide a lot of growth potential for the Japanese carmaker in India.

However, Toyota isn't the only one to look to India as an export hub. In fact, automakers have been looking to the BRIC natios to help drive their growth in the long run. Let's look at what some of Toyota's competitors have lined up in India.

The Indian dream
Fellow Japanese carmaker Honda (NYS: HMC) -- together with Siel -- will look to export its new compact car, the Brio, to neighboring Indian countries such as Nepal and Bhutan by January. After the success of its Figo sedan in India, Ford's (NYS: F) India unit is looking to make the Figo available in nearly 50 countries around the world. Rival General Motors' (NYS: GM) India unit has singled out next year as "crucial." It may begin exporting the Chevrolet Beat's diesel engine and the Beat itself from India next year.

The Foolish bottom line
After quite a subpar year, Toyota is starting to get back on track and is pursuing an aggressive strategy in its attempt to rebound from the Japanese tsunami. It may take some time, but if investors can be patient, there could be some real value here. As Toyota fights to regain its lost market share, you can keep an eye on the Japanese carmaker yourself -- just add it to your Watchlist.

At the time thisarticle was published Fool contributor Shubh Datta doesn't own any shares in the companies mentioned above.The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Ford and General Motors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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