• Kyodo

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Sales of new minivehicles posted the sharpest fall in May as Japan’s auto market nearly halved amid the coronavirus epidemic, which dampened demand and restricted business at car dealers, data from industry bodies showed Monday.

Sales of minivehicles with an engine displacement of up to 660 cc plunged 52.7 percent in May from a year earlier, the sharpest year-on-year fall since 1968 when comparable data became available, as overall vehicle sales in Japan dropped 44.9 percent to 218,285 units, marking the eighth straight month of decline.

New minivehicles sales totaled 70,307 units in the month, the Japan Mini Vehicles Association said.

Excluding minivehicles, sales of cars, trucks and buses fell 40.2 percent from a year earlier to 147,978 units, the second smallest volume for May since 1968, the Japan Automobile Dealers Association said in a separate report.

Vehicle sales declined further after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared a state of emergency in April, with consumers urged to stay at home and businesses to temporarily shut or shorten opening hours.

The state of emergency was fully lifted in stages toward the end of May as the pace of coronavirus infections slowed, but overall economic activity has yet to return to normal.

Vehicle sales had already been weak since October when the consumption tax was hiked from 8 percent to 10 percent.

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