For the first time in nearly two decades, Toyota and Honda are not represented on the list of North America’s busiest assembly plants, according to WardsAuto data.

The industry giants were felled by a trio of natural disasters in Asia that rocked their respective supply chains. The last time both auto makers were absent from the top ranks was 1993.

Volkswagen’s plant in Puebla, Mexico, by a wide margin, was North America’s No.1 producer in 2011. Rounding out the top five are a pair of Nissan sites, Ford’s historic Dearborn Truck plant, and Hyundai’s complex in Montgomery, AL.

Disruptions caused by an earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and catastrophic flooding in Thailand, rippled through historically high-volume plants such as Toyota’s site in Georgetown, KY, and Honda’s assembly complex in Marysville, OH. In 2011, the plants plunged to eighth and 13th, respectively, having finished second and fourth in 2010.

Puebla got a boost from strong demand for the VW Jetta compact car. The plant’s 510,041-unit output represents a gain of 75,356 over its 2010 tally and a mammoth margin over the second-place finisher, Nissan’s site in Aguascalientes, Mexico.

Having escaped the fate of its fellow Japan-based competitors, Nissan squeezed 360,796 units out of Aguascalientes, home to the Nissan Versa subcompact car. Aguascalientes finished third to Georgetown in 2010 with 341,237 units.

Nissan also takes fifth-place with a 333,884-unit output from its complex in Smyrna, TN. The site leapfrogged nine positions from 2010, when its 281,905-unit tally was good for 14th place. 

Third-place finisher, Ford’s Dearborn Truck plant, pumped out 344,446 F-Series pickups, up from its 313,327-unit tally in 2010, when it ranked fifth.

Hyundai’s Montgomery complex finished fourth with a production total of 338,127 vehicles, up from 300,500 in 2010, which was good for 12th place/

The vagaries of model changeovers saw two plants record astronomical year-over-year increases. Output at General Motors’ assembly site in Lake Orion, MI, skyrocketed from a single unit in 2010 to 40,998 all-new Chevrolet Sonic and Buick Verano small cars in 2011.

Similarly, Ford’s Michigan Assembly plant in Wayne, MI, saw its tally climb to 221,514 in 2011, from prior-year’s 317 as the auto maker ramped up the launch of its all-new Ford Focus C-car.

Year-over-year output more than doubled at Ford’s Chicago Assembly operations after the introduction of the all-new Ford Explorer SUV. The plant’s 2011 tally was 260,976, compared with 2010’s 111,042.

Among plants producing from carryover platforms, Chrysler’s complex in Sterling Heights, MI, recorded the highest percentage production gain, 95.9%, as its output of Chrysler 200 and Dodge Avenger midsize cars soared to 198,576 in 2011 from 2010’s 101,353.

Sixty-seven plants contributed to North America’s total light-vehicle production, which jumped 9.9% to 13,083,240, compared with 11,910,219 builds in 2010, when the market’s assembly network comprised 72 sites.

Two new plants came online in 2011: VW’s site in Chattanooga, TN, and Toyota’s complex in Blue Springs, MS.

Five plants had zero-output years in 2011: Ford’s Wayne Assembly in Wayne, MI, and Louisville Assembly in Louisville, KY; Chrysler’s Conner Avenue plant in Detroit; and the former NUMMI’s two plants in Fremont, CA.

With the exception of Wayne, which was consolidated with Ford’s former Michigan Truck plant to establish Michigan Assembly, all will see new life this year. Louisville will be home to the all-new Ford Escape cross/utility vehicle, while Conner Avenue will launch production of an all-new SRT Viper by year’s end.

And Tesla, which acquired the NUMMI site from Toyota, is scheduled to begin output of its Model S all-electric sedan by mid-year.

Two plants ceased production in 2011, both under the Blue Oval: Twin Cities in Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN, and St. Thomas, ON, Canada. They were home to the Ford Ranger small pickup and Crown Victoria fullsize sedan, which were discontinued.

Geographically, Ontario was North America’s top-producing region for the eighth consecutive year with a tally of 2,125,240 light vehicles. Michigan finished, again for the eighth year, in second spot with 1,913,494, but closed the gap between it and Ontario to 211,746 from 483,520 in 2010.

Ohio was third in 2011 with an output total of 1,161,559.

GM’s GMT900 continued its long-held reign as platform-volume king. It accounted for just over 1 million light trucks in 2011, marking the first time since 2007 that it passed the million-mark.

emayne@wardsauto.com