Car sales fall in China laid to isle dispute

Honda, Toyota, Suzuki stung by Senkaku fallout

Kyodo, JIJI

Honda, Toyota and Suzuki said Tuesday their sales in China in September fell by nearly half from the same month a year earlier.

Honda Motor Co., which makes cars in China with Dongfeng Motor Group Co. and Guangzhou Automobile Group Co., said it sold 33,931 vehicles last month, down 40.5 percent from September 2011.

The drop appears directly related to the tension over Japan’s nationalization of the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. China claims the islets, which have long been administered by Japan.

Still, in the first nine months of 2012, Honda’s sales in China were up 9.5 percent year-on-year to 469,993 vehicles.

Toyota Motor Corp. said its September sales in China plunged 48.9 percent from a year earlier to 44,100 units.

In the first nine months of this year, however, Toyota’s sales rose 4.6 percent to 640,200 units.

Meanwhile, Suzuki Motor Corp.’s new vehicle sales in China in September fell 42.5 percent from a year earlier to 16,020 units in terms of the number of vehicles delivered to dealerships.

The leading minivehicle maker cut production as inventories piled up due to the slump.

Limited output restart

Jiji

Japanese automakers operating in China restarted local plants Monday following the end of the country’s national day holidays, but production curbs will continue amid faltering sales reflecting the heightened bilateral tension over the Senkaku dispute.

A senior official at Toyota Motor Corp., which has been suffering a severe sales slump in the Chinese market, said the company’s production will not return to a high level after the holiday period.

Toyota plans to continue slashing local production, the official said, even hinting at possibly halving production from the year-before level.

Nissan Motor Co. and Honda Motor Co. will also continue reducing vehicle production by shortening operating hours and slowing the pace of operations at their Chinese plants.

If the operating rates at the three major automakers’ local factories remain at about 50 percent of the levels a year before for about a month, their vehicle production volumes will fall by some 30,000 to 50,000 units, industry sources said.