The new Toyota Corolla has barely hit car dealers but Toyota is already saying it plans to export the U.S.-built version of the compact sedan to 18 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean starting next year.

Toyota said about 7,500 of the cars, which will be built at the Toyota factory in Tupelo, Miss., will be exported next year.

“These shipments are expected to build upon Toyota’s all-time record export of more than 124,000 U.S.-assembled vehicles to 21 global markets in 2012, an increase of 45% over the prior year,” the automaker said in a statement.

Toyota has been expanding its U.S. manufacturing operations. It built the previous version of the Corolla here, as well as the current Camry, Tundra and Highlander, among others.

“Toyota’s U.S. manufacturing operations continue to grow as a key supplier of cars and trucks for global markets,” said Jim Lentz, chief executive of Toyota's North America region.

While the automaker's exports from U.S. factories are rising, it still is a big importer.  About 450,000, or 22%, of the vehicles it sold in the U.S. last year were imported from factories abroad.

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