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Automobiles

Japan car lobby chief says coronavirus having big impact on sales

Toyota Motor CEO Akio Toyoda speaks as the chairman of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association at a news conference on March 19 in Tokyo. (Photo by Shihoko Nakaoka)

TOKYO (Reuters) -- A coronavirus pandemic is having a big impact on the automotive manufacturing industry, the head of a Japanese lobby group said on Thursday, adding that its members will need to keep adjusting production, amid a projected slump in demand.

"The truth is, it was shocking just how much the world could change in an instant," Akio Toyoda, who also leads Japan's biggest automaker, Toyota Motor Corp, told a news conference in Tokyo.

"At this point, we can't foresee what's ahead for automakers," added Toyoda, the chairman of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association.

In separate announcements this week Toyota, Nissan Motor Co and Honda Motor Co said they would temporarily halt North American factories to protect worker health and amid an expected hit to demand.

They also suspended production at several plants in Europe, with Honda closing its facility at Swindon in Britain until at least April 5.

Despite the uncertainty, Toyoda said he did not expect the virus outbreak to hit spending on research into advanced technologies, such as autonomous driving and electric cars.

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