Japanese automakers' U.S. sales slid mostly sideways last year, but their China business is booming.
Two manufacturers, Mazda Motor Corp. and Mitsubishi Motors Corp., finally are selling more vehicles in the world’s biggest market than in the United States.
Last year, Mazda’s passenger vehicle sales in China grew 8.3 percent to 309,407 vehicles, while its U.S. sales slid 2.8 percent.
Mitsubishi’s sales in China also eclipsed those in the U.S., growing 56 percent to 129,160.
Other Japanese automakers are also surging in China. Honda’s passenger vehicle sales in China climbed 16 percent to 1.46 million last year, while Toyota deliveries rose 6.2 percent to 1.29 million.
For the period, Nissan’s passenger vehicle sales in China increased 12 percent to 1.27 million.
The big outlier is Subaru, the only major Japanese carmaker with no local production in China. Subaru’s sales there slid 35 percent to 30,029 vehicles, just a fraction of the whopping 647,956 it sold in the U.S., where volume rose 5.3 percent.
The rapid growth of Japanese brands in China, led by double-digit percentage sales jumps at Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co., foreshadows a looming shift as the Middle Kingdom supplants the U.S. as the most important market for Japanese auto manufacturers.
It's a remarkable turnaround for the Japanese brands, which had their sales shrivel just five years ago amid a massive consumer backlash against Japanese products triggered by a territorial dispute over islets in the East China Sea.
Through November, Honda was China’s No. 2 selling brand, Toyota No. 3 and Nissan No. 6. Volkswagen topped the list, Geely was No. 4 and Buick No. 5, according to LMC Automotive.
For Honda, Nissan, Toyota Motor Corp. and Subaru Corp., the go-to U.S. remains the biggest -- and typically most profitable -- market.
But volumes in China are quickly catching up and offsetting the U.S. slowdown.
And gargantuan volumes will undoubtedly force reassessment of everything from global production footprints to product development.
credit source; autonews