TOKYO - Despite another increase in exports, Japan's vehicle production fell for the seventh straight month in April.
The 14.1 percent drop, to 761,766 units, was exacerbated by comparison to a strong year-earlier month, when Japanese carmakers were rebuilding inventories after a sales surge in March.
For the year through April, production was off nearly 324,000 units from a year earlier, the equivalent of one assembly plant's full-year output.
Exports rose 4.9 percent to 380,133 to account for nearly half of April's production total. But home-market sales slid 6.0 percent to 414,807.
Production fell at every manufacturer. Nissan Motor Co. sliced output by 21.1 percent, in part because of a 43.6 percent reduction in its exports to North America.
Nissan is trying to reduce its reliance on leasing in the U.S. market even as it cuts excessive inventories there.
Analysts expect industry production to continue falling.
'The surge in production one year ago, the slowdown in domestic sales, the virtual cessation
of shipments to Southeast Asia and Nissan's inventory bulge in North America should combine to result in particularly harsh year-over-year growth comparisons' through June, said Edward Brogan, auto analyst at Salomon Smith Barney Japan Ltd.
He expects Japan's vehicle production to be off 6 percent in the current fiscal year ending next March 31.
Japan's automakers agreed that the current fiscal year will be a down one.
In their fiscal-year forecasts, only Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., maker of Subaru cars, and Daihatsu Motor Co. predicted an output gain of more than 1 percent. Truckmaker Isuzu Motors Ltd. forecast a 0.8 percent rise.
Meanwhile, Toyota Motor Corp., Nissan Motor Co., Honda Motor Co., Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and Mazda Motor Corp. forecast production drops of between 1.3 percent and 4.1 percent.