The Japan Automobile Importers Association said Wednesday that it expects sales of foreign-brand vehicles to keep growing this year, but at a slower pace than in 2012 because of the termination of the subsidy program for purchases of eco-friendly cars.
The association said it expects sales of imported cars, excluding those built by Japanese automakers, to grow about 3.5 percent in 2013 to 250,000 units, compared with the 17.3 percent rise logged last year.
Kintaro Ueno, chairman of the association, said at a news conference in Tokyo that sales of foreign cars will be supported by the expected introduction of new fuel-efficient lineups, including compacts, that suit the needs of Japanese drivers.
But he also said automakers “face a tough environment following the end of the subsidy program, while the outlook for the Japanese economy is unclear.”
An association official said sales of cars built abroad by Japanese automakers and shipped to Japan will likely be buoyed in the first half of 2013 by popular models assembled in Thailand, such as Nissan Motor Co.’s Latio compact sedan and Mitsubishi Motors Corp.’s Mirage small car.
Kazakhstan in 2014
Toyota Motor Corp. said it has signed a memorandum of understanding with the government of Kazakhstan to begin knockdown production of the Fortuner sport utility vehicle there in spring 2014.
It will be Toyota’s first production in Kazakhstan, where the automaker sold about 9,200 vehicles in 2012 and is seeing growing demand for cars.