January 30, 2014 4:22 am JST

Japanese carmakers cranked the volume to record high in 2013

Domestic auto sales are brisk ahead of a tax hike in April

TOKYO -- Eight Japanese carmakers produced an all-time-high 25.34 million vehicles combined in 2013, marking a second straight year of record output.

     Demand in North America and Asia drove production expansions at Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Suzuki, Mitsubishi Motors, Mazda, Daihatsu and Fuji Heavy Industries, the company behind the Subaru brand.

     Toyota's groupwide volume, including figures for Daihatsu and Hino, climbed 2.1% to 10,117,274 units, according to data the firm released Wednesday. Group sales also shot to a record 9.98 million units.

     Nissan, Honda and Fuji Heavy Industries churned out record volumes. Overseas production at the eight firms grew 6.5% overall.

     Toyota and Honda are enjoying brisk U.S. sales of their mainstay Corolla and Accord sedans. As sales in China recover, Nissan logged an 18% increase in local production to 1.24 million units. Strong sales of the Silphy sedan and other offerings helped.

     Meanwhile, the carmakers are struggling to maintain production levels at home, with their aggregate output in Japan shrinking 3.5% to 9.11 million units last year. The companies have worked to beef up their resistance to currency rate swings by assembling more vehicles in the markets where they are sold.

     Recently, last-minute purchases leading up to the consumption tax hike in April have bolstered auto sales in Japan. But for the full year through last December, production shrank due in part to propped up demand in 2012 from government subsidies for environmentally friendly cars.

     Domestic auto sales are expected to slow when the sales tax rises from 5% to 8%, posing a challenge for the carmakers to maintain Japanese production levels. Toyota is planning to cut daily output by some 10% starting in April, compared with the average for January through March.

(Nikkei)