• Kyodo News

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Domestic vehicle production and exports fell for the first time in seven years in fiscal 2008, as the global economic crisis crippled worldwide sales, an industry body said Thursday.

Production in the year that ended in March fell 15.2 percent from the previous year to a seven-year low of 9,993,756 vehicles, while exports dropped 17.2 percent to 5,602,813 units, the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association said.

The drop in production was the fastest since fiscal 1967, when comparable data became available. The drop in exports was the second-largest since 1973.

Japanese carmakers’ overseas production in the year also fell for the first time since 1998, when comparative data began to be released.

In March alone, exports plunged 64.3 percent to 228,201 units, which was the largest since comparable data first became available in 1972.

Car output sank 15.5 percent to 8,542,405 units, the first fall in five years, while output also of trucks and buses fell 14.7 percent and 3.9 percent, respectively.

Output dropped across the board. Industry leader Toyota Motor Corp. saw domestic output drop 20.4 percent to 3,393,257 units, followed by 11.4 percent to 1,148,355 units at Honda Motor Co., 6.6 percent to 1,139,085 units at Suzuki Motor Corp., and 16.8 percent to 1,050,487 units at Nissan Motor Co.

Exports of cars fell 18.0 percent to 4,911,099 units, while trucks fell 13.0 percent and buses fell 1.5 percent.

Exports to North America plunged 23.8 percent to 1,889,290 units. Only 1,662,616 units were sent to the United States, down 25.8 percent, but the decline in exports was limited to 9.1 percent in Asia and 7.5 percent in the Middle East.

In March, domestic vehicle production was halved from the previous year to 552,071 units, the sixth consecutive month of decline. The figure represents the lowest output for the month since 1971.

The drop followed a record decline of 56.2 percent posted the previous month.

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