Toyota will start exporting its Venza crossover SUV from the US to Russia and the Ukraine from April this year. The vehicle is being produced at Toyota Motor North America’s Georgetown plant in Kentucky and the company aims to export around 5,000 units in the first year via the port of Brunswick in Georgia.

The company started small volume exports of the US-assembled Venza, a model derived from the Camry, to South Korea in October last year. Unconfirmed reports also indicate that Toyota has plans to export it to China.

Toyota said the latest shipments were expected to build on its all-time record export of more than 124,000 US-assembled vehicles to 21 global markets in 2012, an increase of 45% over the previous year.

“We are proud that Toyota’s US manufacturing operations are continuing to grow as a key supplier of vehicles for global markets, which is only possible thanks to the dedication and high-quality work of our team members here,” said Shigeki Terashi, president and COO of TMNA. “We expect the export of Venza vehicles to Russia and Ukraine will help further solidify our US manufacturing base.”

US-based manufacturers have been increasing exports over the past two years, with Japanese OEMs leading a large share of the growth. Honda also saw exports more than double in 2012 to around 100,000 units, just shy of the company’s 1994 record. Both Toyota and Honda have previously said they were targeting exports of around 200,000 units from the US.

The top US destinations for exports include Canada, Mexico, Germany, China and Saudi Arabia. Total US vehicle exports to Russia in 2011, the last year for which data is available, hit just more than 17,000 and just less than 1,600 to Ukraine.

First for Toyota at Brunswick
The movement of the vehicles through the port of Brunswick marks the beginning of a new partnership between Toyota and the Georgia Ports Authority.

“This new partnership with Toyota highlights the Georgia Ports Authority’s commitment to unparalleled service for automakers,” said GPA executive director Curtis Foltz. “Because of our direct interstate access and two Class I rail services, we can move exports from inland factories more efficiently, as well as move import cargo to destinations across the Southeast.”

Brunswick port’s Colonel’s Island Terminal handled around 612,500 vehicle and machinery units in 2012, a record number and up from 498,000 handled in the previous year. The port said it handles approximately 10% of all US ro-ro trade and 12% of US ro-ro imports. The port ranked third in the nation for vehicle handling last year, serving almost two dozen domestic and foreign carmakers, as well as heavy equipment producers. The top three carmakers using the port last year were Hyundai-Kia, Mercedes-Benz and the Volkswagen Group.

The terminal operators for vehicle shipments are Atlantic Vehicle Processors, International Auto Processing, Mercedes-Benz and Pasha Automotive Services.