WRAPUP 1-Japan car lobby sees tough 2009, Honda shares fall
* Japan auto sales seen at 31-year low in 2009
* 2009 US sales seen at 12.5 mln, lowest in 18 yrs
* GM, Chrysler restarted merger talks-WSJ
* Honda shares slide 3.5 pct after profit warning
By Chang-Ran Kim, Asia autos correspondent
TOKYO, Dec 18 (Reuters) - The global auto market will remain depressed next year as U.S. economic woes grip the rest of the world, with Japanese car sales likely to be the worst in at least three decades, the head of an industry lobby said on Thursday.
Desperate U.S. automakers are seeking billions in government aid, shutting down plants and reportedly reconsidering mergers to ride out a collapse in demand brought on by the credit crunch and global financial crisis.
In the latest sign of gloom for Japanese automakers, Honda Motor Co (7267.T: Cotización) forecast on Wednesday an operating loss of 190 billion yen ($2.2 billion) for the six-month period to March, sending its shares down 3.5 percent on Thursday. It was the third profit warning in five months for Japan's No.2 automaker, which like its local rivals, is suffering due to the strong yen .
"It's very difficult to gauge where the bottom is (for the global car market)," Satoshi Aoki, chairman of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) told a news conference. Continuación...