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Home turf war

By Cong Mu (Global Times)

08:38, February 22, 2013

Despite hopes for a sales boom in January that would be stimulated by Spring Festival demand, Chinese domestic automakers generally misfired during their beginning salvo in 2013 in the world's largest battlefield for cars.

Domestic brands collectively sold 747,300 passenger vehicles in January, up by 8.5 percent month-on-month, and their aggregate market share slid to 43.3 percent, yielding 3.8 percentage points of the share to foreign competitors compared with December, according to the latest sales figures released by the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) on Monday.

This comes after domestic automakers regained some lost territory in the second half of 2012 at the expense of Japanese car producers in China, owing mainly to a nationwide anti-Japanese campaign that emerged from the Diaoyu Islands dispute between China and Japan in September.

With Japanese brands recovering and other foreign carmakers enhancing their sales force, analysts projected that domestic auto manufacturers would continue their losing streak.

"This year, Japanese brands will win back the market share they lost to rival brands," Yang Jian, managing editor of Automotive News China, a leading online industry website, commented in mid-January.

Most Japanese automakers stopped bleeding last month. Toyota Motor Corp sold 72,500 vehicles in China in January, up by 23.5 percent year-on-year, the first growth on a yearly basis in seven months, car review website reported February 11, citing the company's data. The Corolla, Camry and Highlander are still its top-selling models in China, it said.

Honda Motor Co also came out of a four-month run of red in sales in China in January, when it recorded 47,248 units of sales, up by 22 percent year-on-year, it said.

A salesperson at Beijing Kaibailong Toyota Sales & Service Co told China Securities Journal earlier this month that the dealer's sales have begun recovering since November 2012, and it sold 150 Toyotas in January 2013.

Customers who decided on their models months ago but postponed actual purchases (probably affected by the anti-Japanese sentiment) have already started to pick up their cars from the dealer one by one, the journal reported, citing the sales consultant.

Among foreign carmakers in China, the Germans performed the best in January. According to the CAAM, German automakers sold 328,000 passenger vehicles in January, up by 56.1 percent month-on-month, and their aggregate market share in China grew by 4.6 percentage points last month to 19 percent, followed by 13 percent for the Japanese and 11.8 percent for US brands.

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