* Toyota says China sales fell 48.9 pct y/y in Sept
* Nissan China sales, ex-imports, down 35 pct in Sept
* Honda down 40.5 pct, Suzuki drops 42.5 pct
* Market share could continue to fall - analyst
(Adds Toyota, dealer comment)
By Fang Yan and Yoko Kubota
BEIJING/TOKYO, Oct 9 Japanese car makers
reported tumbling sales in China for September - with Toyota's
almost halving - confirming the impact of a territorial row
between the two countries and raising concerns about their
future in the world's biggest auto market.
Violent protests and calls for boycotts of Japanese products
broke out across China in mid-September after Japan nationalized
two of the East China Sea islands, known as the Diaoyu in
Chinese and the Senkaku in Japanese, by purchasing then from
their private owners.
Toyota Motor Corp said on Tuesday that sales in
China fell 48.9 percent in September from a year earlier, while
Honda Motor Co reported a 40.5 percent slide in its
Nissan Motor Co's China auto sales, including
imports, fell 35.3 percent in September from a year earlier,
according to its China venture partner Dongfeng Motor Group Co
. Suzuki Motor Corp said shipments to
dealerships in China fell 42.5 percent last month from a year
"Inventories are growing, factories are operating less, and
retail is not going well at all," said Koji Endo, a senior
analyst at Advanced Research Japan.
"It'll be the German and South Korean makers that will take
over share from the Japanese brands when Japanese cars sell
less. I don't see a single factor that is positive (for the
While the street protests have eased, China has sent its
patrol ships into what Japan considers its territorial waters
near the islands in recent weeks, prompting Tokyo to lodge
protests against Beijing.
Analysts say that sales for Japanese car makers, which
together had just over a fifth of the Chinese auto market before
the protests, could continue to weaken as long as the diplomatic
"We had cut our 2012 sales forecast of Japanese cars by
100,000, but it seems to be way too conservative now," said John
Zeng, Asia Pacific director for industry consultancy LMC
Automotive. "We had previously expected them to sell 3.04
million, but it will be great if they could move 3 million."
Toyota and its two local Chinese partners sold a total of
about 44,100 vehicles in September, the company's Beijing-based
spokesman Takanori Yokoi said.
For the first nine months of this year, sales by Toyota and
its partners totalled about 640,200 vehicles, up 4.6 percent
from the year-ago period, Yokoi said.
Smaller rival Mazda Motor Corp said last week that
its China sales tumbled 35 percent in September from a year
According to Toyota sales executives in Beijing and dealers
selling Toyota and Lexus cars, sales began bouncing back towards
the end of the month, giving hope for an early comeback.
"The biggest question now is how permanent the damage Toyota
and other Japanese brands sustained is," a key Toyota and Lexus
dealer operator said. "It's too early to say one way or the
other, but we are a bit concerned."
A Japan-based Toyota executive has told Reuters that
Toyota's production cutbacks in China were likely to extend
through November, which points to the company's pessimism over
prospects for an early recovery.
At least two Beijing-based Toyota executives have told
Reuters that the Japanese automaker and its Chinese partners
were unlikely to be able to deliver their goal of selling 1
million cars in China this year. They sold less than 900,000
cars in 2011.
Among the Japanese car makers, Nissan is the most exposed to
the Chinese market, followed by Honda and Mazda.
In 2011, Nissan sold 883,000 vehicles in the world's biggest
car market, which accounted for about 27 percent of the vehicles
the firm sold globally. For Honda, that ratio was about 20
percent, while for Mazda, it was around 18 percent.
For Toyota, Japan's biggest automaker, China accounted for
about 12 percent of the vehicles it sold globally in 2011.
Market share of Japanese brands stood at 21.2 percent at the
end of August, down from 21.6 percent in 2011, according to
official data. German brands advanced to 23.3 percent from 21.3
percent, while market share of Korean brands rose to 9.3 percent
from 9 percent during the period.
The dramatic fall-off in demand for Japanese vehicles has
been an unexpected boon for other foreign brands. In September,
BMW's China sales surged 55 percent, Audi by 20
percent and Hyundai Motor by 15 percent.
The anonymous Toyota-Lexus dealer operator's read from
visiting his Toyota and Japanese-brand car outlets, mostly in
southern China, is that 10 percent of his customers have now no
intention to buy Toyota cars and cancelled their orders, while
20 percent are sticking to them. "The rest - about 70 percent -
are on the fence."
(Additional reporting by Kazunori Takada in SHANGHAI and Yoko
Kubota in TOKYO; Writing by Norihiko Shirouzu; Editing by Alex