Shares in leading Japanese car makers slipped on Friday as evidence mounted of the scale of the customers’ revolt in China prompted by the territorial row between the two countries.
Whether the clients are genuinely angry about the disputed islands, or simply worried about what the neighbours might think, matters less for the hard-pressed sales executives than the hard numbers. Reuters reported on Friday that Chinese sales at Toyota Motor, the top Japanese carmaker, plunged 40 per cent last month.
That followed Thursday’s news from Mazda Motor, reported in the FT, of a 35 per cent drop. Nissan Motor, the largest China exposure of the leading Japanese car makers, has said that its business has been affected.
On the Tokyo stock market, Toyota was down 1.6 per cent on Friday, Nissan 1.5 per cent, Mazda 1 per cent and Honda Motor 0.5 per cent. The Nikkei 225 index was up 0.6 per cent. As the chart shows, Nissan’s shares have been hit the hardest during the dispute, falling by more than 7 per cent in the past month. About a quarter of its global sales come from China, compared to only around 10 per cent for Toyota.
Reuters reported that Toyota sold about 50,000 cars in China in September, quoting a senior company executive. That compares with about 86,000 in September 2011.
The September data give shape to reports that Chinese consumers are shunning Japanese cars and other products in response to the territorial conflict, which has aroused nationalist passions on both sides.
Thousands of Chinese and Japanese tourists have cancelled trips to each other’s countries. Chinese customs officials are also reported to be holding up imports of Japanese electronics components, chemicals and other goods at Chinese ports.
Cars are a particularly visible symbol of Japan’s economic presence in China. In an incident that has come to symbolise the public rage unleashed by the dispute over the Senkaku islands – which China calls the Diaoyu – a Chinese man in Xi’an was severely beaten by a mob that discovered him driving a Toyota Corolla.
But a bad month for the Japanese makers has meant a very good month for their international rivals. South Korea’s Hyundai Motor reported on Friday that its China sales climbed 15 per cent to 84,188 vehicles last month. Volkswagen’s Audi saw sales rise by around 20 per cent in September, BMW by 55 per cent and Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz by 10 per cent.