• Kyodo


An executive in charge of marketing at Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. said Monday that the maker of Subaru brand vehicles must continue to keep a close eye on the domestic auto market nearly five months after the consumption tax increase began denting demand.

Fuji Heavy, in which Toyota Motor Corp. owns a 16.5 percent stake, rolled out the new WRX series models in Japan following North America, Europe and other markets, hoping the new all-wheel drive sports sedans — the WRX STI and the WRX S4 — will improve its flagging sale in the home market.

But Takeshi Tachimori, a Fuji Heavy corporate executive president, said he sees little sign Subaru, Japan’s smallest carmaker by volume, will register a rebound in sales anytime soon.

“Japan will be a tough market to deal with unless we respond flexibly to changes in the market,” he told reporters after a launch event for the new models.

His comment comes amid some emerging optimism about consumer spending. The government raised its assessment on consumption in its latest economic report last month, citing the easing effect of the raised tax rate.

The lingering impact nonetheless hit auto sales in July following remarkable improvement the previous month, when sales had risen for the first time since the April 1 tax hike.

The impact of the sales tax saw the economy contract in the April-June quarter at the fastest pace since the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Some economists warn that the economic data indicates private spending is unlikely to rebound sharply.

Subaru vehicle sales have fallen sharply since April while the pace of decline is gradually slowing. Still, its domestic sales dropped 28.4 percent in June from a year earlier to 10,794 vehicles.

Overall auto sales could come back relatively smoothly after they fell so sharply on the tax impact. But the current market situation indicates the outlook “isn’t that simple,” Tachimori told reporters.

Fuji Heavy said it is targeting monthly sales of 650 vehicles for the two new models.

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