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Lexus entered new territory this past April when it revealed the new NX compact luxury crossover at the Beijing Motor Show, but it wasn't until now that the Toyota luxury division actually started building them. The first production examples started rolling off the assembly line last week at the Miyata plant in Japan, with the accompanying turbo engines built at the adjacent Kanda plant.


The strong yen has Japanese carmakers looking to optimize every efficiency in order to keep their cars competitive in export markets. One strategy gaining momentum is to do some island hopping, specifically, moving plants and manufacturing to Kyushu, the southernmost main island in the Japanese archipelago. Car production there as a percentage of total Japanese production has doubled from 2001 to 2011, but more startling are the recent increases: Nissan just moved its Note and Caravan production

In an announcement that surely heralds things to come, Japan's Kyushu University will be home to a new graduate program in hydrogen energy technologies. Other schools around the world have similar programs that deal with hydrogen as an energy carrier (there's a Sustainable Energy Technology program at the University of Twente in the Netherlands, to cite just one example), but Kyushu U says their program will be the only graduate program that deals exclusively with these aspects of using hydrogen

The Japanese island of Kyushu has become known as "Car Island" due to the influx of not only assembly plants, but also plants run by various car parts suppliers of the Japanese domestic manufacturers. In fact, 30 percent of all suppliers shacked up on Kyushu are affiliated with Toyota.