(Repeats to add additional reporting credit, no change to text)
By Norihiko Shirouzu
BEIJING Jan 6 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 on Monday, according to a Beijing-based company
spokesman. He did not respond to calls seeking comment on
The pace of last month's decline -- roughly 17 percent from
a year earlier -- eased from the previous three months.
"Sales rebounded faster than we had expected," said the
Toyota executive, who declined to be identified because the
sales information has not been made public yet.
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
percent in November, 44 percent in October, and almost 50
percent 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 such
as electronics firms.
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 percent from 19 percent at the end of August,
according to the China Association of Automotive Manufacturers.
Some Chinese consumers have since avoided Japanese cars. In
a widely reported incident during the height of the
anti-Japanese sentiment, a Chinese man was attacked by angry
protesters for driving a Toyota Corolla.
December sales showed Chinese consumers were "not as fearful
of buying and driving Japanese cars as before", the Toyota
(Reporting By Norihiko Shirouzu and Yoko Kubota; Editing by