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Japan: China auto sales not affected yet
Updated: 2005-04-22 09:15

Recent anti-Japanese protests haven't hurt Japanese automakers' sales in China, but companies are wary of problems if the unrest continues, executives said Thursday.

Japan's top automakers stuck to plans to attend Shanghai's auto show, which opens Friday, despite demonstrations in Shanghai last weekend in which protesters laid siege to the Japanese Consulate.

The rancor has threatened to harm economic ties amid widespread calls for boycotts of Japanese products.

But it hasn't affected car sales so far, executives at Toyota Motor Corp., Nissan Motor Co., Mitsubishi Motors Corp., Honda and Mazda said.

"As of last week, orders were running above average and for the past two months they have been double our average," said Stephen T. Odell, Mazda Motor Corp.'s marketing director. "Read into that what you will."

Atsuyoshi Hyogo, chairman and president of Honda Motor (China) Investment Co., was even more emphatic: "There have been no problems so far. Nothing so far."

Despite ever closer economic ties, friction over World War II history and other issues has sunk relations between Beijing and Tokyo to their lowest level in decades.

Honda's president announced earlier this month that his company was cutting back on business trips to China and taking other precautions. Executives at other companies said they were sticking to their original plans, but paying more attention to safety.

"Everything is just as we intended. There is no change at all," said Katsuyuki Suginohara, Toyota's general manager for corporate communications.

But, he added: "Naturally, we told everybody participating to be careful."

Asked if the protests were raising the risks of doing business in China, Katsumi Nakamura, president of Nissan's joint venture with China's No. 4 automaker, Dongfeng Motor Corp., said the company was "studying the issue very carefully."

"The relations between Chinese and Japanese are very important and are essential for the future of the two countries," said Nakamura. "We hope for a resolution (of the dispute) as soon as possible."

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