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By Kazunori Takada
DONGGUAN, China, Nov 23 (Reuters) - Nissan Motor Co , the most exposed of Japan’s leading carmakers to China, expects its sales in the world’s biggest autos market to fall by around a quarter this month from last year, dented still by anti-Japanese sentiment in a dispute over ownership of East China Sea islets.
Nissan, expects to sell around 45,000 cars in China this month, Hideki Kimata, senior general manager of the firm’s local car venture with Dongfeng Motor Group Co, told reporters during a tour of a plant at Dongguan, near Guangzhou in southeastern China.
Nissan’s China sales - which make up around 27 percent of its global total - slumped 35 percent in September and 41 percent in October.
“As the situation has stabilised, so have our sales,” Kimata said, referring to the violent anti-Japanese protests in mid-September that were triggered by Japan’s nationalisation of two islets - known to Chinese as the Diaoyu and to Japanese as the Senkaku. Kimata said sales in China’s southeast had recovered to previous levels, but were still slow in the north and east.
“My personal view is that ... people (in the southeast) are less impacted by the central government and are more pragmatic,” he said, noting Nissan traditionally sold well in the southeast.
Nissan has had to revise down its full-year China sales forecast from 1 million vehicles, and Kimata said the outlook should become clearer after China’s Lunar New Year holiday in mid-February. He stressed Nissan’s commitment to China, but said there had been a shift in strategy following the protests.
“Rather than introducing new models, we’re undertaking policies that show our commitment to our customers, such as offering compensation,” he said.
All Japan’s leading carmakers have compensated car owners and dealers for damage and injuries incurred during the protests - though this has been a low-key campaign as they don’t want to invite a flood of unrelated claims.
Nissan has repaired “several hundred” vehicles under the policy, Kimata said, but declined to put a cost on this. (Reporting by Kazunori Takada; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Ian Geoghegan)