New JAMA head cautions of rough road ahead

by Hiroko Nakata

The new head of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association said Thursday he has a more cautious outlook for the auto industry now than he did a month ago thanks to the uncertainty over European financial markets.

“A month ago, I would have said the industry was recovering toward the end of the year,” said Toshiyuki Shiga, who was approved as chairman of the association earlier in the day.

“But now the situation in Europe is growing unclear. . . . I am taking a more cautious stance now,” Shiga, also chief operating officer of Nissan Motor Co., said at his first news conference as the new chairman.

The financial turmoil triggered by the massive Greek government debt is affecting other European financial markets, and “it is hard to forecast how the situation will hit other parts of the world,” he said.

Reflecting the cautious outlook and the expiration of government subsidies for fuel-efficient vehicles in September, JAMA said it expects domestic car demand for the business year to next March to decline to a 33-year low of 4.65 million units, down 4.9 percent from last year.

JAMA on Thursday also approved Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda and Honda Motor Co. President Takanobu Ito as new vice chairmen.

The association said it will hold the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show from Dec. 2 to 11 at Tokyo Big Sight in the Ariake district.

Shiga said the venue is changing from the Makuhari Messe convention center in Chiba Prefecture at the request of foreign carmakers.