October 10, 2017 / 7:07 AM / 9 months ago

Japan carmakers enjoy cruise in China fast lane

BEIJING (Reuters) - Japan’s top carmakers are enjoying strong growth in China, the world’s top auto market, bucking concerns about a slowdown in the market after tax incentives were cut back this year.

FILE PHOTO: Visitors are seen between Toyota Motor Corp's and other companies booths during the Auto China 2016 auto show in Beijing April 25, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo

Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) and Honda Motor Co (7267.T) said on Tuesday vehicle sales in China grew close to 15 percent in September, after strong sales in August. Nissan Motor Co Ltd (7201.T) posted similar growth on Monday.

After a sluggish start to the year, China’s car market has shifted into a higher gear since mid-year, posting a third successive month of rising sales in August. Overall growth is expected to slow to 5 percent from a double-digit rise in 2016.

Analysts said international carmakers were benefiting most from the uptick, even as some Chinese rivals saw sales growth slow and a diplomatic spat between Beijing and Seoul hit South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Co (005380.KS) and affiliate Kia Motors (000270.KS).

“After a good run in recent months, local Chinese brands are growing much slower now,” said Yale Zhang, head of Shanghai-based consulting firm Automotive Foresight.

“That’s why some good foreign (carmakers) are now seeing their sales grow by double-digits.”

Toyota’s sales in China grew 14.1 percent in September from a year earlier to 118,900 vehicles, after a 13.2 percent increase in August. It sold 960,400 vehicles in the first nine months of the year, up 7.9 percent against 2016.

Honda’s sales in the market were up 15.5 percent for the month, following a 20.6 percent rise in August. Its Jan-Sept sales totalled 1.03 million vehicles, a 17.7 percent increase from the same period a year ago.

Honda, the smaller of the two automakers, has been outstripping Toyota in China so far this year, thanks to hot-selling models that include the redesigned Civic and its subcompact crossover SUVs.

Toyota, Japan’s top automaker by volume, is still on target to sell more than 1.21 million vehicles this year in China up from the 1.2 million vehicles it sold in 2016.

Reporting by Norihiko Shirouzu and Adam Jourdan; Writing by Beijing Monitoring Desk; Editing by Stephen Coates

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