| TOKYO, Sept 20
TOKYO, Sept 20 Japanese automakers, led by
Nissan Motor Co, have lost an estimated $250 million in
output because of anti-Japan protests in China this week and now
face the risk that sales will sputter in the world's largest car
Chinese protesters took to the streets this week in response
to an escalating dispute with Japan over ownership of a group of
isles in the East China Sea, prompting Japanese automakers
including Toyota Motor Corp, Honda Motor Co
and Nissan to temporarily halt operations at plants in China.
Lost production volume from those suspensions amounted to
around 14,000 vehicles as of Thursday, according to an estimate
by IHS Automotive. That would mean immediate lost revenue of
about $250 million, based on an average vehicle sticker price of
about $18,000 for the Japanese brands.
That toll could rise. Toyota said some of its China plants
are still suspended, without specifying. Honda also has two
factories halted, while Nissan has resumed operations.
Nissan has been the most successful Japanese automaker in
China, and is most exposed now. Its projected sales in China
account for 27 percent of its global sales volume, compared with
18 percent for Honda and 11 percent for Toyota.
Industry executives and analysts said automakers would be
able to make up for lost output by running more overtime.
"What is more important is how consumers will react from now
on," said Koichi Sugimoto, a senior analyst at BHP Paribas. "It
wouldn't be strange if some people start thinking that it's
better to buy South Korean cars then Japanese ones so that their
cars won't be destroyed by demonstrators."
Moody's credit rating agency said it was hard to predict how
"rising anti-Japanese sentiment" would affect business.
"The possible implications - in an extreme and unanticipated
scenario - could include the loss of access to a significant and
growing market ... or a reduction in the ability of Japanese
manufacturers to locate facilities in China."
"CAR IS JAPANESE, MIND IS CHINESE"
With immediately recognisable logos, Japanese cars became a
target of havoc for anti-Japan protesters in China.
Protesters burned a Toyota dealership in Qingdao and several
more dealerships suffered damage, a company spokesman said.
A Honda dealership in Beijing sent out text messages warning
customers to be careful. Photos circulated online of Japanese
cars carrying banners such as "Car is Japanese, Mind is Chinese"
and "From now on, I will boycott Japanese goods".
Some Japanese companies are coming up with contingency plans
in case tension escalates. Brake supplier Akebono Brake Industry
is preparing contingency plans in case it faces
problems in importing materials needed to supply automakers in
China, the company's CEO told Reuters on Thursday.
Japanese firms lag rivals General Motors Co and
Volkswagen in China but remain keen on expansion.
Toyota aims to double sales in China to 1.8 million cars by
2015. Akio Toyoda, the president of Toyota, said Chinese
consumers would recognise the contributions of Japanese
automakers and their Chinese partners to the Chinese economy.
"I hope the problem will be resolved soon so that Japanese
cars will be back on shopping lists," he told reporters.
For its part, Nissan plans to boost sales in China to 2.3
million vehicles in 2015 and has launched the made-in-China
brand name Venucia together with its joint venture partner
Dongfeng Motor Group Co.
Reflecting market worries about the fallout, Nissan's Credit
Default Swaps have been rising all week and hit a six-week high
Sales in China's auto market grew sharply in 2009 and 2010,
but growth fell to 5.2 percent in 2011. Sales are up 4 percent
in 2012 so far.
The Toyota Camry, Nissan Teana and Honda Accord represent
three of the top five selling mid-size cars in China.
While the current tension may create an opening for brands
like Hyundai, auto market share is unlikely to shift
much as long as Beijing moves to contain the protests, said
Michael Dunne, a Hong Kong-based auto consultant.
"It's a secret to no one that there is a certain animosity
that Chinese people feel to Japan for historical reasons. At the
same time, it has not stopped them from buying millions of
Japanese cars," he said. "As much as they love their flag, they
love their money more."