• Kyodo

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Japanese automakers faced lingering political tensions between Japan and China as the Beijing auto show opened to the media over the weekend.

The motor show, the largest in the world’s biggest car market, has attracted more than 2,000 companies from 14 countries and regions. They are exhibiting 1,134 vehicles, with a record 118 new models making their global debut, according to organizers.

The Beijing International Automotive Exhibition, which opened Sunday and runs through April 29, comes after China became the first country to see new vehicle sales exceed 20 million units a year in 2013.

For any global automaker, the future hinges on whether it can succeed in China. Japanese automakers are using the biennial event to promote their latest energy-saving models, while seeking to ride the increasing popularity of sport utility vehicles in China.

Yasumori Ihara, a Toyota Motor Corp. executive vice president, told a news conference that its environmental and hybrid technologies “hold the key” as it aims to double new car sales “eventually” to 2 million units a year in the Chinese market.

In unveiling new Corolla and Levin compact sedans to be introduced later this year in China, Ihara said Toyota will roll out gas-electric hybrid versions of them in 2015 using components entirely made in China for the first time.

He said Toyota, the world’s biggest automaker, but whose sales in China are still much smaller than those of Volkswagen AG and General Motors Co., will aim to be the third-biggest brand in the fast-growing market in the future, without specifying a time frame.

Toyota’s Lexus also took the wraps off its NX, the company’s new luxury compact crossover, at the exhibition.

Nissan Motor Co., which has the biggest market share in China among Japanese automakers, unveiled a concept sedan, the Lannia, targeting Chinese in their 30s and also announced the launch of its sports car brand Nismo in China.

Honda Motor Co. publicly unveiled for the first time its five-door concept exclusively developed for the Chinese market and said it plans to mass produce a new vehicle based on it in two years.

Honda also said it will start selling a hybrid vehicle produced in China in 2016.

Among foreign brands in China, the collective share of Japanese automakers ranked second in 2013 behind German makers with 16.4 percent of the market.

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