BEIJING (Reuters) - Honda Motor Co is outselling its bigger, deeper-pocketed rival Toyota Motor Corp in China this year, data from the Japanese companies shows, helped by new model launches and strong sport-utility vehicle (SUV) offerings.
Honda said on Wednesday it sold 113,803 vehicles in the world’s biggest auto market last month, up 11.6 percent from a year earlier. Its sales volume for the first seven months of 2017 amounted to 757,970 vehicles, up 17.6 percent from the same period a year ago.
Toyota sold 732,900 vehicles in China during the first seven months of this year, up 6.2 percent from a year earlier. But that was roughly 25,000 vehicles less than Honda sold in the period. Toyota sold about 108,900 vehicles in July, up 11.4 percent from a year ago.
Since making a full market entry in China in the late 1990s, except for early years Toyota had generally outsold Honda in China every month and year until last year. Industry experts foresee the rivalry continuing even after Toyota refreshes its product lineup in a bid to boost sales.
“Honda’s product lineup is much, much fresher,” said James Chao, Asia-Pacific chief of consultancy IHS Markit Automotive. “It’s still quite an achievement for Honda to outsell Toyota in the world’s biggest market.”
Globally, Toyota last year sold roughly 9.88 million vehicles, compared to Honda’s global volume of 4.91 million vehicles, according to IHS.
Chinese consumers have flocked to Honda’s raft of new models, including a significantly-redesigned version of the staple Civic car, as well as its SUVs. Demand for subcompact crossover SUVs is red-hot in China.
Sales of its aged products are also fairly strong thanks to what rivals and industry experts describe as big discounts and other incentives on car models such as the Accord sedan.
Toyota’s China sales have not been weak, either.
Experts said Toyota’s comeback versus Honda will depend largely on how quickly it can refresh its product lineup.
“Once Toyota introduces new products the pendulum will shift,” IHS’s Chao said, pointing partly to Toyota’s stronger position in distribution.
The significantly redesigned Camry sedan, which hit showrooms in the United States earlier this year, is expected to go on sales in China before the end of this year. A China-version of the Toyota C-HR, a subcompact crossover SUV, is expected to be launched soon, but a Beijing-based spokesman said it was premature to say when the car might hit showrooms.
Honda recently launched the significantly redesigned Accord sedan in the United States. It was not immediately clear when Honda plans to launch that model in China.
Honda’s target for this year is to sell more than 1.3 million vehicles, compared to 1.24 million vehicles it sold last year. Toyota said it is on target to sell more than 1.21 million vehicles in China this year, compared with 1.2 million vehicles it sold in 2016.
Reporting By Norihiko Shirouzu; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier and Muralikumar Anantharaman