* Mazda says Jan-March China sales down 21.5 pct yr-on-yr
* China vehicle sales expected to grow 7 percent in 2013
* Honda shows most resilience, CR-V sales rise
BEIJING/TOKYO, April 3 Japanese car makers'
sales in China in the first three months of the year have yet to
recover fully from last year's slump, and foreign rivals are
capitalising in a market which expects 7 percent growth in 2013.
Mazda Motor Corp said on Wednesday that it and its
partners' sales in China, the world's biggest car market,
dropped 21.5 percent in the three months to March from the same
period a year ago.
The figures suggest Japanese car companies are likely to
struggle in China for some time to come, and early optimism of a
fast recovery - Mazda said in November it hoped to be back to
normal by the end of March - was misplaced.
Earlier this week, Nissan Motor Co said its sales
were down 15.1 percent year-on-year in the three months to
March, while Toyota Motor Corp's fell 12.7 percent and
Honda Motor Co's decreased 5.2 percent.
"While the year-on-year percentage drop of China sales by
Japanese automakers is shrinking, sales are still down by around
10 percent, which shows that they are still struggling in the
overall market. We think this will continue this year and into
the next year and the following year," said Masatoshi Nishimoto,
an analyst at IHS Automotive in Tokyo.
Though the figures have improved since last September, when
sales plunged by around 50 percent after violent anti-Japan
protests broke out in China in response to a diplomatic spat
between the countries, Japanese firms continue to struggle
against rivals including Volkswagen AG and General
Japanese automakers' collective share of China's passenger
vehicle market fell to 12.5 percent at the end of February from
16.4 percent at the end of last year, according to data from the
China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.
German brands in particular have taken advantage and claim
19.3 percent of the market, up from 18.4 percent. Data for March
was not yet available.
GM's sales in the first three months rose 9.6 percent from
the same period last year, it said on Wednesday.
Of the Japanese brands, Honda is proving the most resilient
this year, partly as a result of the CR-V crossover SUV it
launched in 2012.
In the two months to February, overall SUV sales surged 50.2
percent year-on-year, more than doubling the gain of sedan
sales, according to CAAM data.
"The new CR-V has been a big help for Honda when many
consumers are turning to German, Korean and American brands,"
said John Zeng, Asia Pacific director of consultancy LMC
In the three months to March, CR-V's China sales rose 7
percent to 36,657 vehicles, accounting for a quarter of Honda's
overall sales there.
Nissan relies more heavily on China than do its compatriots.
It and its partners sold 1.18 million vehicles there in 2012,
accounting for 24 percent of its global sales.
Japan's second biggest automaker by global sales has pushed
back by one year to 2017 its plan to win 10 percent of the
Chinese market, Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn told Reuters last
week. It currently has around 7 percent of that market.
The January-March sales results will be reflected in the
first quarter of the Japanese companies' financial year that
started on April 1, because the business year for their joint
ventures with Chinese partners starts in January.
They are expected to announce fourth quarter earnings in
late April and early May.