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Japan turns the corner

Back in form: Japanese new vehicle sales were up 1.7 per cent last month - the first positive growth in 13 months (pictured: Nissan Cube).

September sales rise for the first time in Japan for more than a year

General News logo7 Oct 2011

JAPAN new vehicle sales are finally showing signs of recovery, recording a 1.7 per cent rise in September – the first rise in 13 months.

After a year in which vehicle sales have been severely disrupted by the economic situation and by the earthquake and tsunami in March, figures released today revealed a lift to 313,790 units (excluding mini-cars) in September.

There were also increases in vehicle sales around the globe, specifically in the United States (up 9.9 per cent), Germany (up 8.1 per cent), South Korea (3.7 per cent) and South Africa (30.0 per cent).

However, sales declined in Canada, Britain, France, Spain and Italy.

A spokesman for the Japan Automobile Dealers Association said the country’s supply chain was gradually getting back to normal, allowing carmakers to ramp up production.

“The balance between the supply and demand has finally begun to come back,” the spokesman said.

However, cumulative sales are still well down on last year, being some 25.9 per cent lower year-to-date at 1,966,951 units.

Passenger car sales in September were just a 0.8 per cent higher at 280,379 units while truck sales improved 10.1 per cent to 32,565 and bus sales rose 5.5 per cent to 846. Sales of mini-vehicles with engines up to 660cc in September dropped 9.1 per cent to 148,402 units.

In the United States, a 9.9 per cent rise in September has been attributed to Toyota and Honda finally recovering from shortages caused by the Japan earthquake, but is still in line with the overall increase year-to-date.

Analysts believe the market could rise further in the last three months of the year as Toyota and Honda may increase incentives to woo buyers back into their showrooms.

Carmakers sold nearly 1.1 million vehicles in the US in September, with the big winners including Mazda (up 37 per cent), Chrysler (up 36 per cent), Volkswagen (up 36 per cent) and Nissan (up 25 per cent).

General Motors sales rose 19 per cent, largely on strong demand for pick-ups, while Ford sales climbed 15 per cent.

Toyota spokesman Mike Michels said that, nearly a month after the company’s US assembly plants resumed normal output, dealer inventory was still down about 40 per cent. Toyota sales were down 18 per cent in September.

“There’s no silver bullet in terms of getting sales back,” he said. “We need supply, good value and to market aggressively.”

Across the border in Canada, sales declined 0.4 per cent but remain 1.5 per cent up YTD.

In South Korea, domestic sales rose 3.7 per cent to 124,174 units in September, but global sales of Korean-built cars rose 15 per cent.

South Korea’s five car-makers – Hyundai Motor, Kia Motors, GM Korea, Ssangyong Motor and Renault Samsung Motors – sold a total of 671,645 vehicles, up from 582,758 units a year earlier.

Hyundai and Kia were the star performers with sales soaring by 17 per cent and 20 per cent respectively on the back of strong demand for the Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima mid-size sedans.

With warning signs of recession, results varied in Europe.

Germany recorded an 8.1 per cent rise in September – with high-margin large vans, SUVs and luxury saloons fuelling demand – but the trend was reversed elsewhere, with France and Spain both recording drops of nearly 1.5 per cent, while Italy fell 5.7 per cent.

The British market dropped only 0.8 per cent to 332,476 units, but is down 5.0 per cent YTD. Private sales were responsible for the September fall, being down 9.3 per cent.

Finally, South Africa’s new vehicle market improved by some 12,539 units (30.0 per cent) to reach 54,364 vehicles for the month, pushing the YTD growth rate up to 16.2 per cent.

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