• Kyodo

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Toyota Motor Corp. new car sales in China surged in May, the manufacturer said Thursday, underscoring its business in the country is recovering with concern over the new coronavirus outbreak easing.

Sales in the country for Toyota, Japan’s largest automaker, rose 20.1 percent from a year earlier to 166,300 units last month, after edging up 0.2 percent in April. They fell 15.9 percent in March when the spread of the pneumonia-causing virus was stifling the Chinese economy.

In May, Honda Motor Co. saw new car sales drop 1.7 percent to 134,230 units in China, the automaker said. The pace of decrease was much slower than the 10 percent decline in April and the 50.8 percent plunge seen in March.

Sales for Mazda Motor Corp., meanwhile, soared 31.6 percent to 22,886 units in May, highlighting that the car market has become robust in China with business activity returning to normal.

The virus epidemic began in China around Jan. 24, the start of the weeklong Lunar New Year holiday, forcing Japanese manufacturers to suspend operations of their factories and showrooms for an extended period.

In February, sales for Toyota and Honda plummeted 70.2 percent and 85.1 percent, respectively.

As the increase in infections peaked in late February, Japanese carmakers have resumed production at their factories elsewhere in China, including Wuhan, a business and transportation hub with a population of some 11 million.

On April 8, a lockdown on the capital city of Hubei Province was lifted, 76 days after it was imposed.

The new virus, which causes respiratory disease COVID-19, has infected over 83,000 people in mainland China and killed more than 4,600, the nation’s health authorities said.

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