Mazda’s China sales tumble to 19-month low

Bloomberg

Mazda Motor Corp.’s deliveries in China tumbled to their lowest level in 19 months amid anti-Japan protests, fueling concern that larger automakers such as Toyota Motor Corp. will follow suit.

Mazda saw deliveries in China drop 35 percent to 13,258 vehicles last month, the automaker said on its website Thursday.

That’s the fewest deliveries since February 2011, meaning the company couldn’t even match its sales during the aftermath of last year’s quake and tsunami in Japan and floods in Thailand.

The September figures, the first reported among Japanese automakers, may foreshadow the extent of the demand slump that Toyota, Nissan Motor Co. and Honda Motor Co. will report in China later this month.

Auto firm officials said last week their businesses would deteriorate in September as the protests over the Senkaku territorial dispute escalated, with some demonstrators torching auto showrooms and smashing cars.

“Without any signs of when the China-Japan relationship may be restored, it looks like the companies may need to continue reducing output for the time being,” Mitsushige Akino, who oversees the equivalent of about $600 million in assets at Ichiyoshi Investment Management Co., said Friday.

“Japanese carmakers, especially those who have a higher dependency on China like Nissan and Mazda, may need to revise their sales outlook for this year.”

Mazda’s sales in China have been declining in the past few months because of increased market competition, spokeswoman Michiko Terashima said. It’s unclear how much the protests contributed to the drop in September deliveries, Terashima said.

Noriaki Yamada, chief of Mazda’s China operations, didn’t comment on the reasons for the sales decline, unlike previous monthly statements. Sales in the January-September period declined 6 percent to 148,116, according to the statement.

Nissan, which has the highest market share in China among Japanese carmakers, has said it will resume output on Monday. The anti-Japanese sentiment will hit September sales, Executive Vice President Takao Katagiri said.

With the exception of one dealership, all of Nissan’s showrooms reopened before this week’s holidays in China, Katagiri said.