Japan's Nissan mulls pulling out of South Korea as trade tensions rise: FT

FILE PHOTO: A man is silhouetted at a show room of Nissan Motor Co. in Tokyo, Japan, February 12, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-hoon/File Photo

TOKYO (Reuters) - Nissan Motor Co 7201.T is considering pulling out of South Korea, the Financial Times reported on Friday, as political and trade tensions between Japan and South Korea have caused sales of Japanese products in the neighboring country to plummet.

Nissan and other Japanese firms have been a casualty of consumer boycotts of products ranging from cars to beer in South Korea, triggered by sudden export curbs by Tokyo earlier this year as trust between the two countries has eroded over wartime issues.

Citing unnamed sources, the FT said that besides stopping sales in South Korea, Nissan is also mulling its involvement in an assembly plant in Busan owned by Renault Samsung Motors Co, a joint venture with Nissan's French automaking partner Renault SA RENA.PA. The plant makes cars mainly for export markets.

Nissan spokespeople in South Korea and Japan declined to comment on the report.

Japan’s second-biggest automaker has been trying to strengthen governance, slash costs and boost flagging profitability amid persistent allegations of financial misconduct stemming from former chairman Carlos Ghosn’s 20-year reign.

Nissan's market share in South Korea has long lagged its domestic rivals. Along with its luxury Infiniti brand, the automaker has sold just 3,581 cars in the country in January-August this year, down 27% from a year ago and trailing far behind Toyota Motor Corp 7203.T.

Japanese automakers are small players in the South Korean auto market, which is dominated by Hyundai Motor Co 005380.KS, and German imports including the Mercedes Benz and BMW BMWG.DE brands.

Reporting by Naomi Tajitsu in Tokyo and Hyunjoo Jin in Seoul; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman