Toyota, for example, has been relying on one single model, the Corolla, in the key compact sedan market in China, according to Barclays.
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Nevertheless, a shift in strategy is underway, say industry analysts.
Toyota, Honda and Nissan, for example, are strengthening their premium brand lineups in China as well as planning local production in the country.
"The Japanese brands rethought and changed their strategy for winning over Chinese car buyers [and] are now bringing the best they have to show they are at the top of the game," said Namrita Chow, senior automotive analyst at IHS.
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Another positive development is Japanese automakers are making localization a top priority, noted Song.
"After having limited new models for the past five years, both [Toyota and Honda] introduced new and exciting models such as the GAC-Honda Crider, DF-Honda Jade and Toyota Yaris-L in 2013," Song said. "These models are not straight transplants from the overseas markets but rather are specifically designed for the tastes and habits of Chinese consumers."
Judging by the positive initial reaction to these models by Chinese consumers, this shift in strategy is paying off, she said.