China posts first drop in auto sales in nine months image

Chinese car sales declined in September as customers avoided Japanese brands following the territorial dispute between Beijing and Tokyo.

On Wednesday, the China Association of Auto Manufacturers said sales of passenger cars fell 0.3 percent from a year earlier to 1.32 million vehicles. Other foreign and major Chinese manufacturers reported relatively strong sales.

However, Japanese brands suffered double-digit sales declines as buyers avoided their showrooms amid tensions over the islands. “If Japan wants economic growth, it has to maintain good relations with other Asian countries like China and South Korea,” Dong Yang, the general secretary of the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers said a Wednesday briefing.

It is China’s first monthly sales slump in nine months. Sales of Japanese brands dropped dramatically, with total sales of Japanese cars in China reaching 160,000 units, down 30 percent from August. Their share of sales also declined to 13.2 percent from 18.6 percent. Toyota reported its September sales fell 49 percent in China, while Nissan said sales fell 35 percent and Honda said sales fell 41 percent.

Sales lost by Japanese automakers were picked up by foreign as well as Chinese automakers. However, the overall sales slump suggests many consumers held back on purchases.