Toyota vehicle production in North America last year rose 41% year on year to 1.78m units, hitting a record high for the first time in five years.

Nissan the same day announced plans to transfer production of the high-end Murano sport-utility vehicle to the US in 2014.

The last peak of Toyota’s production in North America was in 2007, when its output was 1.72m units, before the collapse of US investment bank Lehman Brothers and the subsequent financial crisis, Jiji Press reported.

The automaker has several plants making Toyota brand models in the US and Mexico and a Toyota/Lexus plant in Ontario, Canada.

Toyota’s US sales rose in 2012 for the first time in five years and the company added new export destinations including South Korea for US-made vehicles, taking advantage of a free trade agreement and favourable currency exchange.

The once-mothballed Mississippi plant Toyota opened in autumn 2011 also pushed up its output in North America.

The North American market, where there is strong demand for luxury and large-sized models with high profit margins, is one of the most important for Japanese automakers.

There are concerns, however, that further moves to strengthen cost-competitiveness by boosting local production there may lead to a hollowing-out of Japan’s domestic auto industry, Jiji noted.