* Strong U.S. market, weaker yen help Japan carmakers
* Honda looks to MDX model to boost sales
* Mazda snaps 16-quarter losing run in North America
* Subaru posts record profit, sales soar in U.S.
By Yoko Kubota
TOKYO, July 31 Honda Motor Co aims to
recover market share in its biggest market the United States,
where it slightly dropped in the first half of 2013, banking
that its redesigned SUV will help boost sales.
The U.S. market is seeing the strongest pace of annual sales
in more than five years, as the world's biggest economy picks up
speed and the Federal Reserve considers tapering its stimulus
But in the first six months of 2013, Honda's market share
has shrunk by 0.1 percentage points despite its vehicle sales
jumping 6 percent from a year ago, as rivals have posted
stronger growth helped by sales of light trucks.
"Pickups and SUVs are growing in the U.S. market, helping
the Detroit-based carmakers... Our light-truck supply was
relatively low, but we are introducing a new model," Honda
Executive Vice President Tetsuo Iwamura told reporters on
Wednesday. He referred to the MDX, a SUV by Honda's luxury brand
Acura that went on sale in June in the United States.
Honda's truck sales rose 6 percent year-on-year in Jan-June.
General Motors, the biggest carmaker in the United
States, saw truck sales climb 13 percent during the same period,
while No.2 Ford saw truck sales grow 14 percent.
In June, new vehicles sales in the United States rose 9
percent to 1.4 million, reaching an annual sales pace of 15.96
million vehicles, the strongest since November 2007.
General Motors and Ford both trounced expectations in their
earnings releases last week.
The strong U.S. market, as well as a depreciating yen, has
benefited Japanese carmakers.
The yen, which has depreciated about 20 percent against the
dollar by since mid-November, has helped boost Japanese
carmakers' profits and share prices as companies can convert
profits made overseas at a more favourable rate and as they can
export cars from Japan more profitably.
MAZDA BACK IN BLACK
Japan's third-biggest automaker Honda, which on Wednesday
posted a quarterly operating profit growth of 5.1 percent
year-on-year to 185.0 billion yen for April-June, said the
recent weakening of the yen had helped boost profits from a year
The world's top selling automaker Toyota Motor Corp
is expected to post an 84 percent year-on-year rise in operating
profit to 649 billion yen ($6.5 billion) when it releases
quarterly results on Friday, according to analyst forecasts.
Mazda, Japan's fifth biggest carmaker by sales, said on
Wednesday that its North American business was profitable after
being in the red for 16 consecutive quarters following the
global financial crisis.
"We are certainly back in profit after introducing the 2.5
litre CX-5 this financial year as well as the Mazda6, and
because the strong yen is being corrected," Tetsuya Fujimoto, an
executive officer of Mazda, told a news conference.
The CX-5 crossover SUV, and midsize Mazda6 share common
parts and have helped improve Mazda's profitability, along with
the yen's depreciation. Mazda makes more than three-quarters of
its vehicles in Japan and exports more than 80 percent of that.
Its global quarterly operating profit rose to 36.6 billion
yen, also back to pre-financial crisis level and more than 20
times what it posted a year ago.
Wednesday's results from Fuji Heavy, the maker of Subaru
cars, told a similar story. The company posted a record
quarterly operating profit of 69.6 billion yen, helped by the
weakening yen and its biggest market the United States where
April-June sales grew 24 percent year-on-year.
Besides the United States, Honda is also looking to emerging
markets to meet its goal of selling 6 million vehicles a year by
March 2017 from its current 4 million figure, but sounded a note
of caution about unexpected swings in that market.
Sales in Thailand, Southeast Asia's biggest car market and
the fourth biggest market for Honda, rose 30 percent in
April-June to around 59,000 vehicles even though some other
carmakers have been struggling in recent months after a boost
from first-car buyers subsidies have waned.
Honda expects some cancellations of existing orders but
Iwamura said the company aims to retain demand by introducing
"At times we see various big unexpected moves in emerging
markets so we are cautious. But automobile and motorbike demand
will certainly grow there so we will continue to build
foundations for success," he said.
In China, the third biggest market for Honda where Japanese
carmakers have been struggling since September following a
diplomatic row, it expects to boost sales with the remodelled
Accord sedan and redesigned Fit subcompact set to go on sale
soon. Honda aims to sell around 750,000 vehicles there in 2013,
Mazda, whose sales recovery in China has lagged behind other
Japanese carmakers, aims to sell 200,000 vehicles this financial
year and boost sales in the world's biggest auto market with
more SUVs, Fujimoto said.