Japan auto sales fell 15% in 2011; December up 22% image

New car sales plunged into a record low in 34 years in Japan in 2011 mainly due to the huge disruption sparked by March’s quake and tsunami.

Sales fell to 4.21 million vehicles last year, the Japan Automobile Dealers Association (JAMA) and the Japan Mini Vehicles Association said on Thursday.

Industry groups blamed the sharp decline on the shortage of auto parts following the devastating quake and tsunami in March that affected many factories in northeastern Japan.

In addition to the upheavals triggered by the March disasters in Japan, flooding in Thailand later in 2011 caused bottlenecks in the supply of critical parts. A strong yen also took a heavy toll.
However, in December sales rose 24 percent from a year earlier to 221,960 vehicles.

Sales at top-ranked Toyota Motor Corp, excluding the Lexus brand, jumped 22.0 percent, while those of Nissan Motor Co surged 37.2 percent.

“There was a sharp rise in the number of people registering for the subsidies in December and we’ve seen that continue into in January,” said an official with the association.

Auto sales, as measured by registrations of vehicles with the government, are monitored by economists since they are the first consumer spending numbers released each month.

The figures don’t include sales of mini cars and trucks.