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April’s domestic auto sales dropped 7.4 percent to 302,667 units from a year earlier, despite it being the first monthly comparison not skewed by the April 1, 1997, sales tax hike, the Japan Automobile Dealers Association said May 1.

The figure is the lowest in 21 years for the month of April. Consumer spending has declined each month since the tax was increased from 3 percent to 5 percent.

The latest sales figure also represents a 20 percent decline from sales in April, 1996, when 374,407 units were sold, according to JADA. JADA officials expressed hope that special income tax cuts scheduled to be implemented this summer will have a positive effect on auto sales, but added they have so far seen no sign of recovery.

Passenger car sales dropped 4.1 percent to 216,156, the association said. Of these, sales of cars with an engine displacement of more than 2,000cc increased 2.4 percent to 48,376. Relatively strong sales of Honda Motor Co.’s Accord and of Mitsubishi Motors Corp.’s Chariot Grandis models helped push up the figure.

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