Japanese Auto Sales Make First Rise In 13 Months

TOKYO (AP) -- The Japanese are finally buying cars again.

The country's auto sales in August rose for the first time in 13 months, as government subsidies and tax breaks helped lift demand. New vehicle sales, excluding minicars, climbed 2.3 percent from a year earlier to 198,265 units, an industry report showed Tuesday.

Toyota Motor Corp., the world's largest automaker, sold 90,802 vehicles during the month, up 9 percent, according to the Japan Automobile Dealers Association. Calculated separately, sales of Toyota's Lexus luxury brand soared almost 47 percent to 1,745 units.

Honda Motor Co.'s sales grew 13 percent to 31,115 units, while Nissan posted a 1.4 percent decline to 31,015 vehicles.

Both Toyota and Honda have benefited from the surging popularity of gas-electric hybrids, which qualify for tax breaks aimed at encouraging sales of eco-friendly vehicles. The exemptions translate into a roughly 150,000 yen ($1,600) tax cut per vehicle.

Honda released its new Insight earlier this year, billing it as the cheapest gas-electric hybrid on the market, to compete with Toyota's top-selling Prius.

Also boosting demand was Japan's version of "cash-for-clunkers." Buyers can receive a 250,000 yen subsidy if they replace a car 13 years old or more with a new vehicle.

Among other makers, Mitsubishi Motors Corp. posted a 22.8 percent increase to 4,519 units. Mazda Motor Corp. sold 13,543 cars, down 2.5 percent.

Investors cheered the latest numbers, sending shares of most automakers higher in trading Tuesday. Toyota Motor Corp. rose 0.8 percent to 4,020 yen, and Honda Motor Co. gained 1.2 percent to 2,970 -- both outpacing the benchmark Nikkei 225 stock index's 0.4 percent climb.

More in Supply Chain