(Adds details, analyst comment)
BEIJING Jan 7 Japan's automakers saw a slow
recovery of sales in China in December as buyers trickled back
to showrooms lured by generous incentives, and as the bruising
effects of a territorial dispute between the two countries
Nissan Motor, the largest Japanese vehicle maker in
China, saw the decline in its Chinese sales narrow to 24 percent
in December from 29.8 percent in November and 41 percent in
Honda Motor Co, Toyota Motor Corp and
Mazda Motor Corp reported declines of 19.2 percent,
15.9 percent and 26.4 percent, respectively, slower rates of
declines than in previous months.
"Japanese cars have a large following in China because of
their styling and fuel economy. Sales would continue to improve
as long as the island dispute does not deteriorate, but it could
take a while for them to recoup their market share," said Sheng
Ye, an analyst with industry consultancy Ipsos.
Some Chinese consumers have avoided Japanese cars since
violent anti-Japan protests last September after Japan
nationalised two East China Sea islands. China claims the
islands as its own territory.
In a bid to win back the hearts and wallets of Chinese
drivers, Japanese carmakers have compensated owners for damage
and injuries during the protests.
Nissan's China venture also offers a new car to any buyer
returning a vehicle over a quality issue within seven days of
purchase and with mileage below 1,000 km (600 miles). None of
the carmakers has said how much the incentives have cost them so
Japanese firms' collective share in China's passenger car
market rose to 11.7 percent in November from 7.6 percent in
October, though was still lower than 19.4 percent at the end of
2011. December market share data is not available yet.
However, growth for all automakers in China is expected to
be tepid this year as authorities in China look for ways to curb
car buying to help ease the worsening traffic gridlock, while
Japan-China tension will continue to hold back Japanese makers.
Last month, Nissan sold 90,400 vehicles in China, bringing
its 2012 sales to 1.18 million, down 5.3 percent year on year.
The figure includes trucks and commercial vehicles.
Full-year sales at its venture with Dongfeng Motor Group Co
came to 773,000 vehicles, missing its 1 million annual
Toyota sold a total of 840,500 cars in China last year, down
4.9 percent from 2011. Honda sold 598,577 cars in 2012, down 3.1
percent from 2011.
(Reporting by Fang Yan and Norihiko Shirouzu in BEIJING and
Kazunori Takada in SHANGHAI; Editing by Jonathan Standing and