Japan Auto Sales Continue Decline

TOKYO (AP) -- Domestic sales of Japanese vehicles fell for the tenth straight month in May, an industry group said Monday, but the decline eased from recent months.

New sales of cars, trucks and buses dropped 19.4 percent from a year earlier to 178,503 units, according to the Japan Automobile Dealers' Association.

Sales fell almost 29 percent in April and 31.5 percent in March.

Among Japan's top three automakers, Toyota Motor Corp. led the decline. The company sold 80,503 vehicles in May, down about 24 percent. Nissan Motor Co.'s new vehicle sales fell 9.1 percent, while those at Honda Motor Co. rose 4.5 percent.

The figures are compiled using the government's new vehicle registrations, and do not include mini-cars or mini-trucks.

Data last week showed that fallout from the recession is expanding to workers and their families amid deteriorating job and wage conditions. The jobless rate rose to six-year high of 5 percent in April, while household spending fell 1.3 percent, the government said Friday.

As part of economic stimulus measures, the government has introduced schemes to boost personal consumption, which accounts for more than half of the world's second-biggest economy.

It began offering tax exemptions for cars earlier this year to encourage sales. Parliament gave consumers added incentive Friday when it approved a cash-back rebate for trading in cars 13 years or older for greener cars.

In a rare bight spot, orders in Japan for Toyota's new Prius hybrid have topped 110,000, a major dealership chain said. The third-generation Prius officially rolled out in Japan just two weeks ago. But dealers are already flooded with orders, including some placed weeks in advance, according to the dealership.

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