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A worker cleans a Toyota Yaris car at a motor show. Despite a rebound in January, Japanese carmakers need to adjust their marketing strategies to realize a whole-year growth and get bigger market share in China. File Photo
Despite an apparent rebound in January sales after almost six months of decline in China, Japanese carmakers continue to be mired in sluggish sales.
Numbers after the first month of the year looked promising for Japan's big four, but industry observers said the growth was likely due to fewer working days last January when the Spring Festival was celebrated, creating a much lower baseline for comparison.
For February, both Toyota and Nissan both reported drops of about 46 percent, while Honda and Mazda decreased 27.1 percent and 24.7 percent respectively.
A spokesperson for Toyota said that it is still too early to see a trend, so the company needs to closely watch the next few months, which are without influence from holidays.
A boycott in the wake of China's territorial dispute with Japan over the Diaoyu Islands sent sales of Japanese products reeling last fall.
Whether the storm has passed or not, Japanese carmakers are adjusting their strategies in a bid to maintain share in a market dominated by their German counterparts.
Statistics from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers show that German brands had 19 percent of the market in January, with Japanese brands holding just under 13 percent.
US-brand vehicles had about 12 percent, with China's domestic vehicle sales accounting for more than 43 percent of the overall market.
Before the islands dispute started last September, Japanese auto brands had 20 percent of China's auto market. By the end of December, the ratio dropped to 16 percent.
Although Japanese automakers might have recovered some of their losses, still more growth was reported by the German manufacturers, which continue to introduce new models and adjust their strategies in the country.
Analysts said that to reverse the trend, Japanese carmakers should put more new models on the market and make stronger efforts in marketing and advertising.
They add that the islands row is forcing Japanese brands to change their conservative strategies.
On Feb 26, Dongfeng Nissan premiered the new generation Teana in Guangzhou.
Ren Yong, deputy general manager of the joint venture, told reporters at a news conference that the company aims to be one of the industry leaders with more powerful, active and aggressive product offensives.
Guangqi Honda's executive deputy general manager Yao Yiming said his company will introduce more new cars as soon as possible to cater to Chinese consumers.
Guangqi Honda will release three new models in China this year, an unprecedented number in the company's history.
The models include the new Honda Accord that will go on sale in the last half of the year, Yao said.
While moving to enrich their lineup, Japanese carmakers are also expanding dealership networks.
Yao said Guangqi Honda will add 200 new dealer outlets, most of them in smaller cities in the central and western regions.
In another development, Toyota's two Chinese joint ventures - FAW-Toyota and Guangqi Toyota - both announced they will begin work on independently developed brands for sale in China this year.
Toyota China announced earlier it has a goal of selling 900,000 vehicles this year, the most in its history.
(China Daily 03/11/2013 page22)