TOKYO - Japan's vehicle production fell 8.4 percent in 1998, to 10,049,792, for the first annual drop in three years, the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association said.
Production slid as both home-market sales and exports declined in 1998, JAMA noted. Sales in Japan fell 12.5 percent; exports slipped 0.5 percent.
JAMA's members expect their exports to drop in 1999, but they hope sales in Japan will rise. Analysts do not foresee a rebound in the Japan market, however, which makes it unlikely that output will increase this year.
In 1998, output of passenger cars and buses fell for the first time in three years. Truck production continued on its losing path, dropping for the fourth straight year.
Daihatsu Motor Co. was the only manufacturer to increase its output in 1998. The specialist in minivehicles, those with engines under 660cc, boosted its production 0.6 percent, to 556,100.
On the other hand, at truck-maker Hino Motors Ltd., owned 51 percent by Toyota Motor Corp., output tumbled 46.5 percent, to 39,822.
Production at Nissan Diesel Motor Co., owned 40 percent by Nissan Motor Co. Ltd., dropped 40.7 percent.
Among the industry majors, output fell 9.6 percent at Toyota Motor Corp., 10.1 percent at Nissan, 4.8 percent at Honda Motor Co. Ltd., 12.8 percent at Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and 3.5 percent at Mazda Motor Corp.
The industry's output in December dropped 8.0 percent to 778,141. Except for a fractional 0.8 percent rise in October, spurred by the launch of new minivehicles, Japan's car and truck production has dropped every month since August 1997.