Sales of Japanese cars in South Korea slump as diplomatic row worsens

SEOUL (Reuters) – Sales of Japanese-branded autos in South Korea slumped in July amid a worsening diplomatic row between the 2 international locations that has led to client boycotts and efforts by Seoul to chop the economic system’s reliance on imports from Japan.

FILE PHOTO: A South Korean lady attends an anti-Japan rally close to the Japanese embassy in Seoul, South Korea, August three, 2019. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

Industry knowledge out of South Korea on Monday confirmed Toyota Motor (7203.T) gross sales in the nation tumbled 32% from a 12 months earlier whereas Honda’s (7267.T) gross sales skidded 34%.

Although automakers are nonetheless assessing the primary elements driving the declines final month, trade individuals and analysts anticipate an intensifying boycott marketing campaign to harm demand additional, as diplomatic tensions develop.

Japan tightened controls in July on exports to South Korea, escalating a row over wartime compelled laborers and sparking a boycott by South Korean customers of Japanese services and products, from cars, beer and pens to excursions.

On Friday, Japan escalated tensions by eradicating South Korea from a listing of export locations authorized for fast-track standing.

“Showroom visits are declining while consumers are holding off on signing contracts,” a Honda Korea official informed Reuters, asking to not be recognized as a result of of the sensitivity of the matter.

South Korean representatives for Honda and Toyota didn’t present any commentary on the gross sales traits and mentioned they would want to evaluate the explanations for the decline.

However, trade watchers mentioned public sentiment was an element behind the sharp falls.

“The South Korean public is angry about Japan…It will soon become a taboo to drive a Japanese cars in Korea,” Daelim University College automotive engineering Professor Kim Pil-so mentioned.

The knowledge from the Korea Automobile Importers & Distributors Association (KAIDA) additionally confirmed Lexus, Toyota’s luxurious badge and the third-most imported model into South Korea after Mercedes and BMW, noticed gross sales down 25% from the earlier month, though they had been nonetheless up 33% from the earlier 12 months.

Japanese officers have cited unspecified safety causes for the export curbs to South Korea. But they’ve additionally pointed to an erosion of belief after South Korean court docket rulings final 12 months ordered Japanese corporations to compensate wartime compelled laborers, a matter Tokyo says was settled by a 1965 treaty normalizing bilateral ties.

South Korean shares fell greater than 2% on Monday, monitoring broader strikes in Asia as the Sino-U.S. commerce battle intensified but in addition weighed by uncertainty over the diplomatic dispute between Seoul and Tokyo.


Earlier on Monday, South Korea’s authorities introduced plans to take a position about 7.eight trillion gained ($6.48 billion) in analysis and improvement for native supplies, elements and tools over the subsequent seven years in an effort to chop the reliance on Japanese imports.

South Korea plans to enhance financial “self-sufficiency” in regards to the manufacturing of 100 key parts, supplies and tools objects used to make chips, shows, batteries, vehicles and different merchandise. The authorities goals to stabilize provide of these things over the subsequent 5 years.

While foreign-branded cars make up a small portion of home auto gross sales in South Korea, the enterprise group is worried a client swing away from Japanese imports for political causes might develop in different sectors, like tourism and retail.

Japan’s Fast Retailing (9983.T) vogue model Uniqlo has been a primary goal for the boycott, with its 186 shops in South Korea making the nation its second largest abroad market in phrases of shops.

Fast Retailing chief monetary officer Takeshi Okazaki final month acknowledged there had been some influence on its gross sales as a end result of the marketing campaign, with out elaborating.

Japan’s Asahi Group Holdings (2502.T), whose Asahi Super Dry is the preferred import model in South Korea, mentioned on Thursday the boycott had hit its beer gross sales as it lowered its revenue steerage barely.

Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin; Editing by Sam Holmes and Muralikumar Anantharaman

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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