Japanese say sayonara to soaring car sales

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Japanese say sayonara to soaring car sales

Sales of Japanese cars here plunged last month even as overall demand for imported cars continues to grow.

According to data by the Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association, the combined sales of Japanese brands sold in Korea stood at 1,589 units in August, marking an on-year drop of 12.3 percent.

In contrast, overall sales of foreign cars hit 10,576 last month, up 16 percent from a year earlier.

Among the seven Japanese brands sold in Korea - Toyota, Lexus, Nissan, Infiniti, Honda, Subaru and Mitsubishi - three have seen a sharp decrease in their monthly sales.

Lexus, the luxury arm of Toyota, suffered a 39.1 percent on-year decline by selling just 190 vehicles. Japan’s No. 2 automaker Nissan was even more crushed as it saw a 70.5 percent on-year decline, while Infiniti, the same carmaker’s luxury brand, also saw sales halve to 95 units.

The companies said their sales will bounce back with new models due to be released in upcoming months.

Lexus said many local customers postponed their purchases in August as they await the release of the Lexus ES, which is due out tomorrow.
Nissan Korea also attributed its sluggish sales to contracting demand ahead of the release of new models including its Altima, a midsize sedan.
“We expect our sales to turnaround in the coming months,” said an employee from Nissan Korea. “Infiniti recently released a diesel model [M30d] and Nissan will release its Altima to give sales a boost.”

Some industry watchers have pointed out that Japanese automakers’ sluggish sales may have been influenced by souring ties between Korea and Japan regarding the disputed Dokdo islets, but the automakers refuted that, claiming it has had no impact.

“If the anti-Japan atmosphere was really an issue, Toyota would have been harder hit than Lexus, which is a luxury brand, but Toyota has posted healthy sales,” said an employee of Toyota Korea.

Toyota sold 821 vehicles last month in Korea, up 62.6 percent from 2011. Its sales in first eight months jumped 103.8 percent from the previous year on the back of sales of 7,043 units.

Japanese auto brands were also reported to be struggling in China last month, possibly due to another set of disputed islands that are known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China. According to the China Passenger Car Association, overall sales of Japanese cars plunged 2 percent on-year in August. Honda sold 14.9 percent more cars in August on-year, but Toyota shed 15.1 percent.

By Joo Kyung-don [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]

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