(Adds company comment, analyst quote)
By Samuel Shen and Norihiko Shirouzu
SHANGHAI Aug 4 Honda Motor Co Ltd
posted a 23 percent slump in July China vehicle sales, its
biggest decline in 17 months, casting doubts over the company's
full-year sales target in the world's biggest auto market.
Honda had said it aims to increase China sales by 18.9
percent this year, but during the first seven months, sales only
grew 6.9 percent.
A Honda spokeswoman attributed the decline to tough
competition, and a seasonal decline in demand, among other
factors, but said sales were expected to rebound in the second
half of the year after the company launched new models.
Honda is expected to launch around September a small utility
vehicle and a cross-over utility version of the Honda Fit, to
take advantage of these vehicles' popularity in China.
Rival automaker Toyota Motor Corp also saw China
sales fall 1.1 percent in July and 7.6 percent from a year
earlier. Toyota sales have been weak because it is still ramping
up production of the newly redesigned Corolla model, which went
on sale in China recently, company officials said.
Honda and its two local joint ventures sold 39,543
automobiles in China in July, down 22.7 percent from the same
month a year ago and also lower than the 15.8 percent
year-on-year increase in June
The July decline is the biggest monthly fall since February
2013, when Japanese carmakers were still suffering from a wave
of anti-Japanese sentiment in China triggered by a territorial
dispute between Beijing and Tokyo.
Honda's China sales in the first seven months of the year
came to 392,959 vehicles, up 6.9 percent from the same period a
Honda, which operates car ventures in China with Dongfeng
Motor Group Co Ltd and Guangzhou Automobile Group Co
Ltd , has said it aims to sell 900,000 cars
in China this year.
The automaker will double the number of car models it sells
in China over the next two years to increase its market share,
Japan's Nikkei newspaper reported in May.
(Additional reporting by Brenda Goh; Editing by Miral Fahmy)