SEOUL, Nov 9 (Reuters) - Honda Motor Co is considering importing more cars into South Korea from the United States instead of neighbouring Japan, its chief executive said on Wednesday, in a move aimed at avoiding damage from the yen’s strength.
The move by the Japanese car maker comes after its bigger rival Toyota Motor Corp said last week it would sell U.S.-made Sienna minivans in South Korea, shipping cars from the United States for the first time to the country.
Honda CEO Takanobu Ito made the remarks to reporters in Seoul.
Japan’s No.2 automaker already ships the U.S. version of the Accord to South Korea, and sends the other models it sells there -- the CR-V, CR-Z, Insight and Civic -- from Japan.
The strong yen is making exports from Japan less cost-competitive and profitable, while a possible free trade agreement between South Korea and the United States has given added incentive to reduce shipments from Japan.
Japanese auto executives have complained that Tokyo was not doing enough to stem the yen’s rise and sign free trade agreements, saying that was making it difficult to compete against the likes of South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Co .
The move also comes as Japanese firms are sharply losing their market share in Korea to European rivals such as BMW and Volkswagen , also partly hit by the earthquake in Japan earlier this year.
Sales of Japanese cars in Korea plunged 21 percent in the January-October period, while sales of German vehicles jumped 34 percent.
The move to import cars from the United States will have a limited impact on overall earnings, however, because Japanese automakers have a tiny share of the South Korean market.
Last year, Honda sold 5,600 cars in South Korea, while Toyota sold 10,000.