SHANGHAI: Sales at Toyota Motor Corporation and its Chinese joint ventures rose 23.5 per cent in January compared with a year earlier, the first rise since the outbreak of anti-Japan protests last year that led to a sharp drop in sales among Japanese carmakers.
Toyota said seasonal factors were behind its first rise in Chinese sales since June, and analysts said it was too early to declare the struggles of Japanese brands over.
“The results are higher than a year ago as the Spring Festival fell in January last year,” the company said in a text message. Many shops, including car dealers, close during the week-long holiday which comes in February this year.
Ye Sheng, an analyst at Ipsos, said focus should be on the first-quarter data rather than monthly figures.
“Toyota’s year-on-year rise in January sales could have been inflated by several factors: carmakers typically cut prices aggressively before the Lunar New Year, people are more willing to buy new cars at the start of the year, and last year’s New Year was in January,” he said.
Toyota said it and its Chinese partners sold 72,500 cars in the country in January. Toyota’s China sales fell 15.9 per cent in December. Last month’s rise was the first year-on-year growth since June last year.
Japanese carmakers saw their China sales drop sharply after violent anti-Japan protests erupted across the country in September after Japan nationalised islands in the East China Sea. China also claims the islands as its own territory. Sales in China of Japanese brands including Nissan Motor Co and Honda Motor Co, have been recovering slowly since October, but have not yet regained prior levels.
Toyota, which operates car ventures in China with FAW Group and Guangzhou Automobile Group Co, aims to sell 900,000 cars in the country this calendar year, up 7.1 per cent from a year earlier.
Meanwhile, Toyota will recall 1.1 million cars globally for defects, including 752,000 Corolla and Corolla Matrix vehicles in the United States to fix airbags that could be deployed inadvertently, the automaker said on Wednesday.
The airbag problems have caused minor injuries such as abrasions in 18 cases that have been reported, Toyota spokesman Naoto Fuse said. Two accidents have been reported by customers outside Japan, although Toyota has not been able to confirm them, he said.
An IC chip in the airbag control unit can malfunction when it receives electrical interference from other parts in the car, causing the airbags to deploy when it is not necessary, Fuse said.
Toyota will add an electrical signal filter to the airbag control module to the recalled vehicles - repairs expected to take an hour to hour-and-a-half, he said.
The spokesman declined to disclose the costs involved.
Separately, Toyota will also recall 385,000 Lexus IS and its series, including 270,000 Lexus IS vehicles in the United States over wiper problems, Fuse said.
The wiper arm nut of the front wiper in these vehicles may not be tight enough and the wiper may not work under certain weather occasions, including in snow. Toyota will exchange the nut in repairs that will take about 30 minutes, Fuse said.