A territorial dispute over a series of islands has had major ramifications for Japanese automakers selling cars in China.
Toyota’s Chinese-market sales dropped to 44,100 units in September, a decrease of 49 percent from the same month last year as shoppers continued their protest of Japanese goods. Honda’s deliveries fell 41 percent to 33,931 vehicles for the month, while Nissan was down 35 percent to 76,066.
Smaller Japanese brands were also heavily impacted, with Suzuki and Mazda’s Chinese sales down by 43 percent and 35 percent, respectively.
In the middle of last month, Chinese buyers began to boycott Japanese products after Japan acquired two East China Sea islands from private ownership. The islands give Japan access to lucrative fishing waters, but China says that the tiny islets have been part of their territory for nearly 500 years.
Several reports have circulated in the media about Chinese protesters burning Japanese-brand vehicles in front of dealerships, and arsonists have also set a number of new cars at the country's ports ablaze. Some consumers have chosen quieter protests like the Chinese flags draped (upside down) over Japanese-brand badges.
Nissan, Honda and Toyota all plan to cut production in China by about 50 percent to compensate for plummeting demand, according to a report from Japan’s Nikkei newspaper. Nissan will suspend the night shift at its factories, while Honda and Toyota plan to trim output by shortening work hours and decreasing the speed of production lines. Representatives from the automakers have yet to officially comment on the Nikkei report.
Many brands from other nations seem to be benefiting from the Chinese boycott of Japanese vehicles. BMW’s sales in China climbed 55 percent in September, while Hyundai was up 15 percent and Volkswagen’s sales rose by 25 percent.