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Toyota to Honda Deliver Record Sales in China as Backlash Fades

Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. reported record sales in China last year as they recovered from 2012, when a territorial dispute led to a backlash against Japanese brands in the world’s biggest auto market.

Toyota’s deliveries in China rose 9.2 percent to 917,500 in 2013, while Tokyo-based Honda’s sales rose 26 percent to 756,882 vehicles, the companies said in statements today.

While political disputes between Asia’s two-largest economies resurfaced last year, Japanese automakers avoided the type of economic fallout they saw in 2012, when diplomatic tensions led to violent protests and a boycott of Japanese products. Toyota may increasingly count on China for growth as Japanese consumers face a higher sales taxes from April and a slowdown in emerging markets may persist through the year.

In 2012, the Japanese government’s purchase of a group of uninhabited islands claimed by both countries prompted some demonstrators to torch dealerships and vandalize cars associated with Japan. Toyota and Nissan Motor Co. posted their first annual sales declines in the neighboring Asian country following the riots that year.

Last year, tensions between the two countries flared again after China created an air-defense area covering the islands and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last month became the nation’s first sitting head of state since 2006 to visit the Yasukuni Shrine that memorializes the nation’s war-dead. The diplomatic disputes in 2013 didn’t lead to mass protests as they did in 2012.

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