The head of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association has said Japan's automakers must tap demand in emerging economies if they are to grow in 2013.
"Like in recent years, there are few strong prospects for growth," said Akio Toyoda, the association's chairman and the president of Toyota Motor Corp.
"But new demand is arising in the U.S. and other industrialized markets," he said. "If demand in emerging economies is added to that, we can expect potential for growth in the new year."
Toyoda, who took the helm of the association last year, was speaking in a recent interview given to a group of media outlets including The Asahi Shimbun.
He stopped short of saying car sales would expand in 2013, given a slump in demand in the EU and uncertainty in the Chinese market, the world's largest.
Toyoda called on the new administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to give priority to the auto industry in its economic policy, saying carmakers underpin the nation's entire manufacturing sector.
"If the auto industry loses its competitive edge against global competition, it could weaken manufacturing overall," he said.
He reiterated a call on the government to scrap two taxes--on the purchase of cars and on the vehicle's weight--to encourage sales.
"A large number of jobs will be lost if measures are not taken before the rise in consumption tax," he said, referring to legislation passed in 2012 that will see the tax rate rise from the current 5 percent to 8 percent in April 2014 and 10 percent in October 2015.
Toyoda also addressed the question of next-generation motive power, which currently exists in the form of electric and hybrid vehicles. He said no one vehicle type is likely to emerge anytime soon as the model of the future.
"A range of models will continue to coexist for some time," he said. "Local markets will depend upon each country's predominant energy source and any measures enacted to help automakers."
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