US CAR, TRUCK EXPORTS CLIMB FROM THEIR STILL LOW LEVELS

US CAR, TRUCK EXPORTS CLIMB FROM THEIR STILL LOW LEVELS

U.S. automakers' exports of cars and trucks from North America are increasing sharply from their still relatively low levels and rose 44 percent in the first two months of this year.

Ford Motor Co. expects to triple its exports of built-up vehicles from North America to about 150,000 a year by 1995 to 1996, while General Motors Corp. has a target of 250,000 by mid-decade, executives of the two automakers said."By 1995-'96, we'll be producing about 150,000 vehicles for export, or triple the 51,600 we exported in 1991," Robert P. Sparvero, general manager of Ford's North American automotive operations export sales activity, told the press in New York Tuesday.

Ford hopes to export the equivalent of an assembly plant's production, or 200,000 vehicles, by the end of the decade, Mr. Sparvero said.

Ford executives are in Moscow this week to learn more about the Russian market, where there's "an opportunity for a truck range that's good for Russia," he said.

Noting that Latin American nations are relaxing restrictions on auto imports, Mr. Sparvero said Ford plans to start exporting Rangers to Chile in June or July from North American plants instead of from Brazil. Meanwhile, Ford expects to sell "several thousand" vehicles in Venezuela, where it made a modest start last year, Mr. Sparvero said.

Ford is working with ship lines and U.S. ports to assure itself that they can handle the growing volume of exports by the end of the decade, he said.

Ford ships out of the Port of Wilmington, Del., to the Middle East, its largest export market, and Spain; from the Port of Baltimore, for its Probes to Germany and elsewhere in Europe; and from the Port Newark, N.J., for Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.

U.S. exports of built-up cars and trucks from North America totaled 274,000 last year, Mr. Sparvero said, citing data reported to the Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Association. U.S. automakers accounted for about 80 percent of that total while Japanese transplants took the rest, he said.

Chrysler Corp., No. 2 behind GM among Detroit's Big Three, exported about 40,000 vehicles, mostly minivans and Jeeps, last year.

General Motors expects to export "about 150,000" cars and trucks from North America this year, up some 25 percent from the 130,000 it exported last year, said Richard M. Lee, executive in charge of GM International Export Sales. The 1991 total was up 30 percent from 1990, when the Middle East market rebounded following the end of the Persian Gulf war.

General Motors expects its vehicle exports to the Mideast this year at least to match its level in 1991, when it exported 53,500 vehicles to that area, compared with 27,200 units in 1990.

GM plans to begin shipping Saturns to Taiwan in May and to begin selling them there in June. These will be the first Saturns to be exported, and GM will go to a 50-hour week in two shifts at its Saturn plant in April from its current 40-hour week, in order to raise production to meet the export demand.

The big automaker still plans to export Saturns to Japan but hasn't set a date for those exports to begin, a spokesman said.

Saturn was praised for being "well above average" in reliability in its first year in Consumer Reports magazine's upcoming April issue, which also recommended the Ford Escort and Mercury Tracer among small U.S.-made cars.