Tue, May 03, 2011 - Page 11 News List

Japan car sales fall record 51%

DOUBLE WHAMMY:Sales have been hit both by supply disruptions caused by the March 11 quake and tsunami and by a plunge in household consumer spending since then

AFP, TOKYO

A man looks at a catalog at a Hyundai dealership in Seoul, South Korea, yesterday. Japanese new vehicle sales last month halved, sinking to the lowest monthly tally on record, as domestic automakers felt the full brunt of the March 11 earthquake that caused unprecedented disruption to car production. In stark contrast, the fortunes of South Korea’s Hyundai Motor and affiliate Kia Motors posted double-digit growth in global sale.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Japan’s domestic sales of new cars, trucks and buses logged their -biggest-ever drop last month, an industry group said on Monday as the March 11 quake and tsunami hit production and supplies to dealers.

The sales came to 108,824 units last month, down 51 percent from a year earlier, the Japan Automobile Dealers Association said. The drop, far steeper than a 37 percent fall in March, was the biggest since the data began being recorded in 1968. The previous record fall was 45.1 percent in May 1974, when Japan was reeling from the oil crisis.

Auto sales plunged last month as automakers were forced to halt factory lines with parts supply disrupted in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake and tsunami.

Factories have since resumed production, but the association was cautious about sales from this month onward. Analysts say a parts supply shortage that has strangled production may last for months.

“Factory lines started moving again, but they are not operating fully yet. We are likely to continue feeling the impact [of the -disaster],” a spokesman at the association said.

The official said auto sales were down because the supply of new vehicles had been hit as a result of the March 11 disasters, amid dampened consumer sentiment.

Japan’s biggest recorded quake and the tsunami it unleashed shattered supply chains and crippled electricity-generating facilities, including a nuclear power plant at the center of an ongoing atomic emergency. Many key component manufacturers are based in the worst-hit regions and suffered damage to their facilities from the earthquake or were inundated by the giant wave that followed.

Sales of Toyota Motor vehicles dropped 68.7 percent to 35,557 vehicles last month. Nissan Motor vehicle sales tumbled 37.2 percent to 17,413 in the month, while Honda sales dived 48.5 percent to 18,923.

Last week’s data showed a 15.3 percent dive in Japan’s industrial production in March on-month, the sharpest since records began in 1953, owing mostly to crippled vehicle production.

Consumer sentiment has also plunged. Japanese household spending plunged by 8.5 percent in March from a year earlier in the biggest drop since records began in 1964, separate data showed last week.

Consumers have held off spending on non-essential items.

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