Japan’s auto sales soar by record 78.2 pct in March

Japan’s auto sales soar by record 78.2 pct in March

TOKYO / PARIS - Agence France-Presse
Japan’s auto sales soar by record 78.2 pct in March

A worker of Japan’s auto giant Nissan Motor assembles an engine at the company’s Iwaki plant in Iwaki city in Fukushima. AFP Photo

Japanese automobile sales saw their biggest-ever monthly surge in March, data showed yesterday, a year after domestic demand plummeted in the wake of the country’s quake-tsunami disaster.

Sales of new vehicles with engines above 660cc stood at 497,959 last month, up a record 78.2 percent from March 2011, and marking the seventh consecutive rise, the Japan Automobile Dealers Association said.

The figures, also boosted by government subsidies for eco-friendly vehicles, include large vehicles such as trucks and buses as well as cars.

“The sharp gain was exceptional because it was mainly due to a considerable plunge in March last year when the disaster struck the country,” an association spokesman said.

New vehicle purchases slumped 37.0 percent in March last year following the earthquake-tsunami, but have since staged a recovery with increases of 31.9 percent in February and 40.7 percent in January.
January was the first complete month of sales after Tokyo re-introduced subsidies for eco-friendly vehicles that can cut thousands of dollars from their price tags, a move aimed at boosting the domestic automobile industry.

Japanese automakers were last year pummelled by the March disasters and subsequent nuclear crisis as well as record flooding in Thailand, which disrupted supply chains.

Meanwhile, French cars sales fell by 21.7 percent in the first quarter of 2012, figures from the Committee of French Manufacturers (CCFA) showed yesterday.

Sales fell by 23.5 percent in March, following drops of 20.7 percent and 20.2 percent in February.
The sharp drop is in large part explained by strong sales a year earlier boosted to a 10-year high by a French “cash-for-clunkers” scheme that subsidized new car purchases to boost the economy.

A total of 507,089 vehicles were sold in the first quarter of 2012, down from 647,454 in the same period a year earlier.