TOYOTA Motor Corp is still dogged by a sales crisis Japanese carmakers are suffering in China as a result of a territorial row between the two countries but December sales proved “surprisingly resilient”, a senior Toyota executive said.
The executive said customer traffic in Toyota’s showrooms was recovering to levels seen before the crisis over the disputed islands in the East China Sea broke out last September.
Toyota sold “almost” 90,000 vehicles in China in December, compared with 108,000 cars the company and its two Chinese partners sold in December 2011.
Toyota is expected to announce its China sales data for December today, according to a Beijing-based company spokesman. He did not respond to calls seeking comment on November sales.
The pace of last month’s decline – roughly 17 per cent from a year earlier – eased from the previous three months.
“Sales rebounded faster than we had expected,” said the Toyota executive.
He attributed the recovery in part to discounts and other sales incentives the Japanese company provided during the month.
Toyota’s December sales fall followed a decline of 22 per cent in November, 44 per cent in October, and almost 50 per cent in September.
Signs in the marketplace across China, including a recovery in customer traffic in dealer showrooms, were “encouraging”, the Toyota executive said.
Sales patterns showed consumers were no longer as spooked as they were before a surge of anti-Japan sentiment that affected sales at auto stores and other Japanese-branded companies.
Violent anti-Japan protests swept China from mid-September after Japan bought two East China Sea islands, known as the Diaoyu in Chinese and Senkaku in Japanese, from their private owner. China claims the islands as its own territory.
Demand slumped in September and October, reducing the market share of Japanese firms in China’s passenger car market to about 17 per cent from 19 per cent at the end of August, according to the China Association of Automotive Manufacturers. Some Chinese consumers have since avoided Japanese cars.
December sales showed Chinese consumers were “not as fearful of buying and driving Japanese cars as before”, the Toyota executive said.
Toyota has also decided to halt the construction of new factories for the next three years in a shift from its previous policy of building new plants almost annually, reports said yestesrday.
The company will concentrate its capital investment on existing factories, the Nikkei business daily said.
The new policy will basically shelve through the end of the 2015 fiscal year all plans for building new factories other than those already announced, the paper said.
The company will officially announce the decision in a new management plan to be released in coming months, Jiji Press said. Agencies