By on January 7, 2013


Sales of Japanese car in the world’s largest car market, China, continue to be impacted by the war of words (and occasionally sledge hammers) over uninhabited rocks in the East China sea.  Sales are inching up a bit after customers dare to come back to the showrooms of Japanese brands.

Sales Of Japanese Carmakers In China
December Full Year 2012, Units YoY
Toyota -15.9% 840,500 -4.9%
Nissan -24.0%
Honda -19.2% 598,577 -3.1%
Data: Companies via Reuters, Nikkei

This is the way it looks in December. Sales are still down by the double digits for the month. Sales are down only slightly for the year, but this is because the trouble started in September, and before that, sales were good.  The next months likely will look similar, with a slight uptrend.  It will be a while until Japanese carmakers have regained trust and market share in China. Data as reported by Reuters and The Nikkei.

In Japan, the numbers will look different. Japan is on a fiscal year, which goes from April through March. The current fiscal will be impacted by seven months of slow sales in China.

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10 Comments on “Japanese Cars Continue To Suffer In China...”

  • avatar

    A lot of people in China still remember stories of the “Rape of Nanking”… and what was done to the Chinese farmers who helped Doolittles men who crashlanded in coastal China after the raid on Tokyo.
    These kinds of memories don’t fade quickly.

    • 0 avatar

      Nor should they.

    • 0 avatar

      Yup. The ire between China and Japan goes back for thousands of years. They aren’t as bad as the Middle East in not letting stuff go, but the atrocities of World War II from “comfort women,” Nanking, biological warfare, slave labor (IRONY!), and human medical experiments (including live vivisection) have not been forgotten.

      It isn’t the biggest driving force – but China has been pissing off its neighbors over rocks in the ocean for twenty plus years now.

      It is a complicated situation.

  • avatar

    China has territorial disputes with many of its neighbours… Most though, it approaches with a desire to resolve amicably if possible (Case in point the over 20 demarcation agreements it has reached in the last 20 years with its neighbours).

    The Diaoyu/Senkaku Island dispute with Japan on the other hand, is an entirely different story. I guess when you kill over 20 million Chinese civilians, they are not overly keen on seeking out any type of amicable resolution with you.

    Not to turn this into a political post, but Japan’s current occupation of the disputed islands runs contrary to the terms of both the Potsdam Declaration and the San Francisco Treaty signed at the end of the Second World War, which clearly requires that country to renounce all possessions acquired through aggression.

    It is ironic that for their short term gains of containing China’s growing influence in the Pacific, the US is now openly supporting such a flagrant breach of these treaties by Japan. This is all the more sad given America’s principal role in bringing about Japan’s surrender in the Second World War.

    I guess it is just another sign of mid-20th century American idealism being compromised by the current administration’s pursuit of realpolitiks. It is really action like this which diminishes the rest of the world’s admiration for the United States.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m sorry, but there is so much misinformation in your post I don’t know where to start.

      First, China has had 23 territorial disputes since 1949, 6 of them China has used military force. China still has a area the size of Greece in dispute with India, land took after China attacked India in the 60s, and is still in an invading force in Tibet. Their territorial claim of the South China Seas reaches ridiculous levels, claiming basically all of it, and China has been shown to use both military and economic force recently in those disputes.

      Secondly, according to the San Francisco Peace Treaty, those disputed islands (and Okinawa) go to the US. Those islands were returned by the US to Japan in the 70s. China has never made any claims to those islands until oil was found by a UN ship in the 70s. Even the Chinese Communist Party officially regarded those islands as Japanese in the 50s until oil was found.

      Beyond that, those islands were never taken under aggression, as China officially made no claims to them 6-months before the Treaty of Shimonoseki in 1895, and the islands themselves never really belonged to the Chinese (or even Japanese) to begin with.

      As the Economist has an article on the exhausting history of the those islands. Those islands have always been part of the Okinawan/Ryuku people, which are actually separate from both the Japanese and Chinese in history.

      China’s claim to those islands are linked to the fact that the Ryuku people of modern day Okinawa were vassal states to the Ming Dynasty. China takes the same logic in ownership of land with Tibet and Taiwan, which were both vassal states during the Ming Dynasty as well.

      China believes everything they achieved during the Ming Dynasty is rightly theirs, even for land and countries that were never part of China and were vassal states. You can see the flaw of this logic, if European nations claimed lands they owned during that same time, most of the world would belong to Britain, Spain, Portugal, and France.

      • 0 avatar

        @L’avventura: While I disagree with your analysis, your post is at least well articulated, rather than the usual anti-China drivel often parroted. Having said that, your post contains numerous factual errors.

        I have no idea where you got your got your figures of six instances of China using force in 23 disputes since 1949… The only ones that come to mind relate to India’s initiating a border dispute in the 60s (, China’s dispute with the Soviet Union (which was politically motivated by both sides, albeit for very different reasons), and China’s open use of force in the Spratly Islands in its dispute with Vietnam. Only the last instances would warrant any allegations of a conflicting initiated by the Chinese.

        As for Tibet, that issue is much more complex, and certainly would not fall into the same category as a “border dispute” between two sovereign nations.

        What is beyond dispute is the fact that has settled numerous land border disputes with its neighbours since the early 90s, all through negotiations.

        I was trying to find one article which concisely summarizes the settlements online, but was only able to locate various articles dealing with individual settlements of disputes with Russia, Vietnam, and various central Asian republics, most within the last five years:

        In none of these cases was the use of force even contemplated.

        Your references as to the terms imposed upon Japan in the Treaty of San Francisco is also inaccurate. The treaty simply states that Japan is to relinquish control over islands acquired through war, it makes no reference to it being handed over to the United States per se. The fact that Okinawa and associated islands fell under US administration, was a practical decision following the war. Irrespective of its actual control, the United States cannot “return” something to Japan, when it did have legal OWNERSHIP of it in the first place.

        As to your suggestion that the islands were terra nullius (unclaimed territory) at the time of its “discovery” by Japan in 1894, that argument also does not hold water. China was in no position to contest Japan’s incorporation of the islands in 1895, as it has just lost the first Sino-Japanese War. The reality is that Japan took advantage of a weak neighbour who was simply incapable of doing anything at the time.

        Perhaps you would like to read a more historically-rooted analysis, which clearly sets out the basis of China’s claim (much of which based on Japanese historical documents acknowledging Chinese sovereignty over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands throughout the 18th and 19th century).

        Contrary to what you suggest, China (both the PRC and the ROC government-in-exile on Taiwan) repeatedly asserted their claims to the islands before 1970. This often-repeated line that China only became concerned following the discovery of oil in the 1970s is a common line used by certain groups in Japan.

        Finally, your contention that China is trying to reclaim everything under its jurisdiction during the Ming Dynasty (including vassal states) is simply inconsistent with the facts. If that was the case, China would be claiming the entire Korean peninsula, Mongolia, northern Vietnam, and a sizeable chunk of southern Siberia. This is clearly not China’s position.

  • avatar

    Japan is kindly addressing the issue by ceasing to reproduce.

  • avatar

    Is like some kid in trading a 20 dollar bill for a couple of shiny gold dollar coin.
    What do they really see in those couple of tiny islands?
    Is there any difference in investing heavy with Bernie Maddof and try to convince oneself is going to be a big gain?

    at the moment Nippon is convincing herself nothing matters and even all the car, appliance sales went totally south will justify in the end with the payoff of the tiny islands.

    Nippon’s economy is not exactly doing splendidly could use a lot of help from the voracious consumer appetite of middle kingdom for anything that either moves or make noises.

  • avatar

    As the Op’er… this has gotten a bit off topic.

    The subject matter originally being discussed is the possible reasons for Japanese vehicles loosing market share in China. The WW2 atrocities from Japan tward China were horrible. My 1st girlfriend in high school had a father who lived thru the Batan Death March and the subsequent years of living hell … and his stories are almost tame compared to what Chinese civilians suffered. The words “horrible suffering” do not carry enough strength. Horrible x2…x3…x4 would maybe be better.

    In Chinese families these true and horrible stories are passed carefully thru generations. A Chinese person of today generally will respect Japan’s economic model and also respects Japan’s technical accumen. But most well informed Chinese families also are careful to pass to the younger generation an awarness of the very real atrocities that the Japanese Army inflicted. The same type of stories have thru history always instilled a boycott”ish” attitude. That’s all I was originally saying.

  • avatar

    You’re right, my apologize for straying off topic…

    Your assessment of Chinese sentiments is more or less spot-on. Respect for the incredible achievements that the Japanese people have been able to make since WW2, particularly given their limited access to natural resources, but also disdain for the Japanese government’s constant white-washing of war atrocities.

    Notice that despite the US’s position in supporting Japan on the disputed islands issue, there is no widespread call or support for boycotting American goods? In fact, Ford and GM sales are both up in the middle kingdom!

    This really take the wind out of the sails of those who suggest that the popular resentment is being worked up by the government. If that was the case, the boycott would be more widespread to include American products.

    I’ve always found it particularly ironic that one of the most successful brands in China is Mitsubishi, a company which was very involved in the Japanese war efforts, both in armament production and utilizing slave labor in its mining operations…

    Anyhow, the current drop in sales for Japanese cars is not likely to change that much in 2013.

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