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2009年3月 3日 (火)

自動車不況 新興市場と環境技術がカギ

The Yomiuri Shimbun 

Carmakers facing long road to recovery

自動車不況 新興市場と環境技術がカギ(33日付・読売社説)

The nation's auto industry, which has been a driving force in the Japanese economy's high growth, continues to decline.


Domestic sales of new vehicles, excluding minivehicles, plunged about 32 percent in February from the figure one year ago, the largest drop in 35 years since the first oil shock affected vehicle sales in May 1974.


The number of exported vehicles declined by 59 percent in January, while domestic production dropped by 41 percent in the same month, the largest single-month declines ever recorded in the industry.


The nation is experiencing a vicious cycle in which production cutbacks due to slumping global sales aggravate the employment environment, which in turn reduces consumption. All domestic automakers plan to boost production from spring, but they will still be a long way from recovery and are facing unprecedented challenges.


The auto industry's recovery is indispensable to Japan's economic revitalization. To secure new sources of revenues it is necessary to shift management resources to emerging markets--where certain growth is expected from now on--and environmental technology.



Massive rollback in production

The production cut by domestic automakers, including reductions to overseas production, reached 4.14 million units in fiscal 2008. The combined figure equals Honda Motor Co.'s total annual production.


Between 10,000 and 30,000 auto parts are used to make one vehicle. About 5 million people, or 8 percent of the nation's employed workers, are engaged in jobs related to the auto industry. Automakers' production cuts affect other industries, dragging down the real economy.


China, which has not suffered much decline, became the world's largest vehicle market, surpassing the United States for the first time, in monthly auto sales in January.


From now on, emphasizing the development of low-priced mass-market cars will be vital to gaining a foothold in the emerging markets.


Amid the continuing sales slump, Honda received three times the targeted number of orders for its hybrid vehicle that began selling in February. Toyota Motor Corp. and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. also are scheduled to start selling new hybrid and electric cars by summer.



Catering to demand

Honda's hybrid Insight is popular due to its price of less than 2 million yen. If an automaker produces an environment-friendly, affordable car, there is bound to be considerable demand.


Japanese cars have been synonymous with fuel efficiency. It is vital that Japanese automakers get back to their roots and develop their strengths.


General Motors Corp. and other struggling U.S. and European automakers have been seeking financial assistance from their governments. Carlos Ghosn, president of Nissan Motor Co., recently remarked that his company would seek the Japanese government's assistance.


However, direct support by the government will damp an automaker's self-reliance, and if it goes too far, may invite protectionism.


Direct financial support by the government will not necessarily benefit Japanese automakers, which are internationally competitive. Governmental assistance should be limited to encouraging innovation and improvement by the automakers, such as expansion of tax breaks for fuel-efficient vehicles.


(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 3, 2009)

2009330131  読売新聞)


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