Wednesday, February 27, 2013
DJ: Japan Car Makers Post 1st China Output Rise Since Disputes
TOKYO--Japan's top three car makers increased production in China in the first month of the year from the same month last year, the first production rise since territorial disputes between the two countries sparked a consumer backlash that hit demand for Japanese brands late last year.
However, the car makers are still cautious about the sustainability of the rebound, as the Lunar New Year holiday, which fell in January last year, made the sales increase appear better than it would have otherwise.
Toyota Motor Corp. (7203) said Wednesday that production rose 7.4% in January from the same month a year earlier. Nissan Motor Co. (7201) and Honda Motor Co. (7267) said they increased output 32.4% and 20.1%, respectively.
The results were the first production increase for the three biggest Japanese car makers since a territorial row over a group of islands in the East China Sea lead to boycotts of Japanese goods in September.
The sharp output rebound was in line with a spike in January sales figures released earlier in the month. The three car makers each logged more than 20% sales growth in the month from the same month ago, when the New Year holidays reduced the number of operating days.
Alongside the yen's recent weakening, the renewed momentum in the world's biggest auto market could help pull Japan's auto industry out of years of doldrums. The March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in eastern Japan and massive flooding in Thailand whacked Japanese car makers adding to the woes created by the yen's rise in the past few years.
Both the sales and production volumes of Japanese companies have shown clear improvements in the world's biggest car market. Still, a Toyota spokeswoman said it is too early to say Toyota has finally got back on its feet, and the company needs to monitor demand in the coming months when the holiday's effect is eliminated.
As well, concerns remain about the continuing political tensions between Asia's two biggest economies.
In an early warning of a possible return to downturn in February, Kimiyasu Nakamura, head of Nissan's joint venture in China, Dongfeng Motor Co., said Tuesday that sales for the two months through February may fall by 20% from the same period last year, despite the January surge.
Toyota, the world's biggest car maker, built 57,200 vehicles in January in China, up from 46,600 in December. Sales soared 23% in the month from a year earlier, to 72,500 vehicles.
Output by Nissan, Japan's second biggest car maker, totaled 99,571. Honda, the third biggest, produced 52,005 vehicles in January.