TOKYO - Japan's vehicle production slid 10.6 percent in March to 976,737 units, as a sharp drop in domestic sales erased a gain in exports.
March exports rose 13 percent to 402,489 even as sales in Japan fell 20.3 percent.
It was the 22nd straight monthly export rise and the sixth consecutive decline in output.
For the fiscal year that ended March 31, Japan's exports rose at the fastest clip in 17 years - up 21.4 percent to 4,671,812.
That barely offset a 13.9 percent drop in sales at home to lift production by a modest 1.5 percent to 10,612,963 for the fiscal year.
The Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association predicts output will begin to rise in October, when it expects to see the effects of the Japanese government's latest economic stimulus package. But many private-sector economists are skeptical about whether the government's measures will have much impact.
In line with recent trends, March exports rose 10.7 percent to the United States but jumped 20 percent or more to Europe and the Middle East and more than doubled to Canada. Exports to Asia tumbled 52.7 percent.
By maker, exports rose 10.9 percent at Toyota Motor Corp., jumped 17.9 percent at Nissan Motor Co. and soared 72.3 percent at Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., the maker of Subarus. But exports slid at Daihatsu Motor Co. and truckmakers Hino Motor Ltd. and Nissan Diesel Motor Co.
Honda Motor Co. and Suzuki Motor Co. were the only two Japanese carmakers that built more vehicles in March than they did a year earlier. Suzuki's output rose 13.5 percent, while Honda's rose 5.8 percent.
Output fell 22.2 percent at Mitsubishi Motors Corp., 15.8 percent at industry leader Toyota and 15 percent at No. 2 Nissan.
Output for the fiscal year, a hint at corporate earnings for the year, fell 2.3 percent at Toyota and 3.8 percent at Mitsubishi. Production for the fiscal year rose 14.8 percent at Honda, 11.7 percent at Mazda and a marginal 0.5 percent at Nissan.