China fines Toyota 87.6 million yuan over Lexus price-fixing

FILE PHOTO: A Toyota logo is displayed at the 89th Geneva International Motor Show in Geneva, Switzerland March 5, 2019. REUTERS/Pierre Albouy/File Photo

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's market regulator on Friday has fined Japanese carmaker Toyota Motor 7203.T 87.6 million yuan ($12.5 million) for price-fixing on its premium Lexus cars in eastern Jiangsu province, according to a document on its website.

The decision comes as China steps up regulation over auto sales in the world’s biggest vehicle market, where more than 28 million cars were sold last year.

The anti-monopoly bureau of State Administration for Market Regulation said that between 2015 and 2018, the Japanese carmaker set a minimum sales and resale price for its cars in coastal Jiangsu province, which deprived dealers of pricing autonomy and harmed customers’ rights.

Lexus also fixed sales strategies in the region over the period, including offering customers discounts while asking them to purchase accessories at fixed prices, a sales tactic usual among individual auto dealers in China but frowned upon for carmakers.

A spokesman at Toyota, Lexus’ parent firm, told Reuters the firm acknowledged the penalty and respects the decision. He did not comment further.

China’s auto sales are declining, but Lexus’ sales keep growing. It sold 180,200 vehicles in the first 11 months this year, a 21% jump from a year earlier.

In June, China's market regulator imposed an 162.8 million yuan fine on Ford Motor Co's F.N joint venture with Changan Automobile Group 000625.SZ for violating anti-monopoly law.

($1 = 6.9927 Chinese yuan renminbi)

Reporting by Yilei Sun and Norihiko Shirouzu in Beijing; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise