• Kyodo

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New car sales in Japan slumped 11.5% in 2020 from a year earlier amid the COVID-19 pandemic, marking the largest fall in nine years, data from industry bodies showed Tuesday.

Automakers sold 4,598,615 cars last year, including minivehicles with engines of up to 660 cc, according to the Japan Automobile Dealers Association and the Japan Mini Vehicles Association.

The 11.5% decline is the biggest since 2011, when auto sales tumbled 15.1% to about 4,210,000 vehicles in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. The disaster ravaged northeastern Japan and disrupted supply chains.

The auto industry has seen a pickup in sales following a slump in the spring of 2020, when Japan was placed under a state of emergency due to the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Excluding minivehicles, car sales fell 12.3% to 2,880,527 units. A total of 1,718,088 minicars were sold, down 10.1%, the data showed.

Car demand usually grows toward April and the start of the new business and school year. Uncertainty remains over the outlook for 2021 as the government, struggling to cope with a winter wave of COVID-19 infections, is moving toward declaring another state of emergency.

Toyota Motor Corp. saw a 5.8% drop in domestic sales in 2020 from a year earlier, while its competitors suffered double-digit declines.

Mitsubishi Motors Corp. registered a 41.3% slump and Nissan Motor Co., in the midst of restructuring since the departure of former Chairman Carlos Ghosn, saw a drop of 27.5%.

The other automakers affected include Honda Motor Co. and Mazda Motor Corp., along with minicar-making Suzuki Motor Corp. and Daihatsu Motor Co., a Toyota subsidiary.

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