• Kyodo

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New vehicle sales in April sank 28.6 percent from a year ago to 270,393 units, dropping for the seventh consecutive month as the coronavirus shrank demand, data from industry bodies showed Friday.

Excluding minivehicles, car sales in the reporting month fell 25.5 percent from a year earlier to 172,138 units, marking the third-weakest April since comparable data became available in 1968, according to the Japan Automobile Dealers Association.

It was the worst April since 2009 during the global financial crisis and March 2011, after the offshore mega-quake and tsunami devastated the Pacific coast of Tohoku.

Sales of minivehicles with engine displacements of up to 660 cc plunged 33.5 percent to 98,255 units, also down for the seventh consecutive month, according to the Japan Mini Vehicles Association.

The coronavirus pandemic continued to stifle sales, forcing major automakers including Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co., to cut production.

While the official tally of COVID-19 cases in Japan is not that high in comparison with Japan’s counterparts, the government in April declared a monthlong state of emergency until Wednesday to slow its spread, asking people to stay at home as much as possible. The now nationwide emergency is expected to be extended until the end of the month.

Vehicle sales including trucks, buses and minivehicles have also been weighed down by the Oct. 1 consumption tax hike to 10 percent from 8 percent.

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