Toyota and Honda Overcome Headwinds to Hit Chinese Sales Records

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Though it’s unlikely that any major automaker will be able to reach the 49 percent sales gains Ford experienced last year in China, other brands still enjoyed a strong year in the world’s largest market for automobiles — importantly, Honda and Toyota, which in the past have been victim to anti-Japanese boycotts by Chinese shoppers over political tensions between the two Asian nations.

The two companies seem to have recovered from the protests, which put a sizable dent in 2012 figures. With the worst of that storm seemingly blown over, the two automakers have posted record figures for their Chinese performances. Honda managed a 26 percent gain to 756,882 units for the year, while Toyota achieved a comfortable 9.2 percent swell as its two joint ventures in the country moved 917,500 vehicles. However, it wasn’t enough to hold Toyota’s spot in fifth in the nation — that was taken by Ford.

Volkswagen AG (VLKAY.PK) and General Motors remain the incumbent leaders in the region, the Financial Times reports. Both companies were able to move more than 3 million units during 2013. Ultimately, it appears that VW edged out GM for the leading position in China, based on data obtained through November, the Financial Times said.

A new Accord sedan — a popular model in China — led to a sales surge in December of 60 percent compared with a year earlier, Honda said on Monday. A new Fit compact and some other Fit-based models will also likely help Honda’s chances in the Chinese market.

However, analysts believe that strategical shortcomings may also be partially to blame for the Japanese brands’ underperformance over the last couple of years. While American and European firms immediately began sinking money into Chinese expansion efforts post-financial crisis, Toyota and Honda were reportedly less willing to do so. It was in this timeframe that China overtook the U.S. as the largest market for vehicles.

“Toyota, Honda and Nissan’s combined share has fallen from one-quarter in 2008 to as low as 15 per cent in the middle of last year,” the Financial Times reports. “Of the three big Japanese brands, however, Nissan has invested the most in China and — not coincidentally — enjoyed the fastest sales growth, increasing its market share at the expense of its two rivals.”