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Japanese Carmaker Goes Green - 2003-06-20

Japan Tobacco, the world's third largest tobacco group, warns a hike in tobacco taxes slated for July could harm its business.

In an interview with Reuters News Agency, Japan Tobacco President and CEO Katsuhiko Honda says the new tax could discourage smokers and lead to more job losses and factory closures than it has already planned.

Japan's domestic tobacco market has been shrinking for the last four years with the number of smokers slowly declining. A survey by the tobacco giant shows that in 2002, 31 percent of Japanese adults smoked, down nearly two percentage points from a year earlier. Japan Tobacco commands about 73 percent of the domestic market, the world's third-largest after China and the United States.

Toyota Motor, Japan's largest automaker, has rolled out a comprehensive system to produce cleaner vehicles. The announcement comes amid growing pressure on the industry to do more to safeguard the environment.

Toyota President Fujio Cho says design engineers will next year use a new computer network to enhance performance while reducing negative environmental effects. Mr. Cho says Japan has some of the world's most advanced energy conservation technologies, which could boost the economy.

Japanese workers in all sectors traditionally receive a bonus every summer, and this year bonuses will be larger.

Keidanren, Japan's largest employees federation, says bonuses are up about four-percent on average. This is the first hike in several years due to higher profits after a spate of corporate restructuring.

The increase could help Japan's troubled economy, since many people use bonuses to buy items such as cars and expensive electronics. Consumer spending is down in Japan because of near-record unemployment and repeated recessions.