Japanese carmakers targeting China

After sales slumped due to a territorial dispute, motoring giants get back on road to expansion

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 November, 2012, 3:59am


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Japanese carmakers Toyota and Honda, recovering from a consumer backlash in China, will continue to expand in the world's largest car market as their local venture partner said the worst is over.

Toyota will introduce 20 new models on the mainland in the next three years, senior managing officer Hiroji Onishi said at the Guangzhou car show on Thursday. Honda is guaranteeing buyers against damage due to anti-Japan sentiment, while Nissan said it is targeting expansion in smaller Chinese cities with its Venucia brand.

They are taking part in their first major car show since large-scale, anti-Japan protests broke out in September over a territorial dispute that led to some cars being smashed and dealerships torched. The most difficult period has passed and people are calmer, said Zeng Qinghong, general manager of Guangzhou Automobile Group, which operates joint ventures with both Toyota and Honda.

"In 2013 Japanese brands will go all out to regain any lost ground encountered in the fourth quarter of this year," Namrita Chow, a Shanghai-based analyst at industry researcher IHS Automotive, said. "This will mean new model launches, discounts and good service packages as well as an increased line-up of models on offer to consumers in China."

Japanese carmakers reported a plunge in China deliveries in September and October, as Chinese consumers shunned their cars after diplomatic tensions escalated over the group of disputed islands known as the Senkakus in Japan and the Diaoyus in China.

Toyota showed 46 models at this year's show in Guangzhou, expanding its exhibition space by 12.5 per cent from last year. Honda, Japan's third-biggest carmaker, displayed 23 models at the show, including the Fit hybrid compact, with plans to begin local production of hybrid models in China from 2014, according to the Tokyo-based company.

Showroom traffic at Nissan dealerships have recovered to last year's levels while orders are at 80 per cent, said Hideki Kimata, senior vice-president at the carmaker's Chinese joint venture, Dongfeng Motor. Nissan's commitment to China has not changed and the carmaker wants to assure consumers that the brand is "safe and secure", he said.