Japan Auto Production Falls In July

TOKYO (AP) -- Global production at Japan's top automakers sank again in July, dragged down by a prolonged slump in demand and lingering uncertainty over a recovery in the battered industry.

Toyota Motor Corp., the world's biggest auto company, said Friday its global output dropped 20.1 percent from a year earlier to 576,074, marking the 12th straight monthly decline.

Earlier in the day, Toyota said it was pulling out of a California factory joint venture it had previously run with General Motors -- the first time the Japanese auto giant is closing a major car assembly plant ever. The move came after the U.S. auto giant withdrew from the 50-50 joint venture in May.

Toyota said it would not be "economically viable" to keep production at the California joint venture. Hit by plummeting global demand, the company racked up its worst loss ever of 436.9 billion yen ($4.6 billion) for the previous fiscal year, and is expecting more red ink for the fiscal year through March 2010.

Toyota's production in the United States fell 20.8 percent in July to 63,360, while its output in Japan dropped 30 percent to 261,099.

Honda Motor Co., Japan's No. 2 automaker, said its global production in July tumbled 24.3 percent to 258,972, down for the ninth consecutive month. Its output in the United States dropped 37.6 percent, while that for Europe nose-dived 48.9 percent -- the 13th straight monthly decline.

Nissan Motor Co. said the pace of decline in global production was becoming moderate, with its worldwide output down 15.9 percent to 265,623 in July.

But the company, allied with Renault SA of France, said it remained unclear when demand at home and abroad would pick up.

"We cannot really say when demand will recover. Overall, global demand remains sluggish except China," said Nissan spokesman Mitsuru Yonekawa.

China is the bright spot for Nissan with its output in the world's third-largest economy soaring 42.8 percent to 54,265 in July, thanks to rising consumer demand. Yonekawa said the Teana sedan is selling well in China.

Mazda Motor Corp. reported a 16.4-percent drop in global production at 105,434 vehicles.

Mitsubishi Motors Corp. said its global production in July came at 63,540, down 45.6 percent year-on-year. It marked the 17th straight monthly decline.

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