Exports by Japan's top three car producers dropped slightly in January but there was a compensating increase in overseas production according to figures released this week.

Toyota Motor exported 111,348 vehicles, down 7.6 percent from January 2000. Shipments to North America were down but production in Europe (mostly in the UK) and North and South America increased.

Production of the Yaris, a popular model previously exported from Japan, began at a new French plant this month and this is likely to further reduce Japanese exports this year.

Nissan exports were down 4.5 percent to 42,382, the fifth consecutive monthly fall, but worldwide production increased 11.7 percent. Nissan also saw a decline in North American shipments in January but exports to Asia and the Middle East rose.

The switch from Japanese to British production of the Almera sedan in 2000 accounted for reduced exports to Europe.

Honda exports nosedived 21.8 percent to 29,683, the sixth consecutive monthly decline. However, like its rivals, Honda is increasing production in both North America and the UK.