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The importance of Asia for Japan's automakers

Can Japan’s automakers withstand a slowdown or worse in the U.S. Japan and Western Europe? You bet they can. Hot on the heels of healthy quarterly results for the three months ended December, more signs are emerging that rising demand in Asia will offset troubles in the mature markets.

Sunday’s Nikkei, Japan’s biggest business paper, reckoned that this year, for the first time, sales in Asia outside Japan will be more than sales at home for Japan’s automakers. In 2008, sales in the region are projected to rise 700,000 to 5.5 million units, besting Japan sales which were 4.94 million in 2007 and unlikely to grow anytime soon. Just as important, that’s not too far away from the 6.8 million vehicles sold by Japanese automakers in the U.S. in 2007. Unsurprisingly, China looks like being one of the big drivers of growth with TM, for example, projecting a 40% increase in sales this year to 700,000 vehicles.