Toyota to cut prices of Lexus parts in China amid antitrust concerns

SHANGHAI (Reuters) -- Toyota Motor Corp. said today it would cut prices of parts for its luxury Lexus models in China, following similar moves by its German rivals, in response to heightened regulatory scrutiny over antitrust issues. 

Prices on about 15,000 parts will be reduced by an average 26 percent from next month, according to a statement posted on the Lexus website in China.

"In response to the NDRC's concerns over monopoly practices in the industry, Lexus China will cut prices of spare parts in China starting from Sept. 1," it said, referring to the National Development and Reform Commission, the country's price regulator.

"The company will ensure full compliance with the Chinese law, improve management behavior ... protect interests and rights of customers and contribute to the China auto industry," the statement added.

BMW, Volkswagen AG's Audi and Mercedes-Benz have already announced price cuts on auto spare parts in China, in an effort to appease regulators which have accused some of them of anti-competitive behavior.

An array of industries, from milk powder makers to electronics firms, has come under the Chinese regulatory spotlight in recent years as the government intensifies its efforts to make foreign companies comply with 2008 anti-monopoly legislation.

Legal experts, however, point out that the authorities appear to have wielded the law against more foreign multinationals than local companies. Officials say the law is applied to both domestic and foreign firms, with the aim of protecting consumers.

The official Xinhua news agency reported earlier this month that Mercedes-Benz has been found guilty of manipulating prices for after-sales services in China. The NDRC also said it would punish Audi and Fiat S.p.A.'s Chrysler for monopoly practices.

Executives at Toyota told Reuters earlier in the month that the Chinese government is taking an "initial" look into the auto parts policies of its Lexus brand.

Toyota's move comes a day after China fined 12 Japanese suppliers a record 1.2 billion yuan ($201 million) for manipulating prices.

China's auto sector, which is the world's largest and dominated by foreign brands, has been under particular scrutiny amid accusations by state media that global car and parts makers are overcharging customers.

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