TOKYO - Japan's vehicle production fell 2.4 percent in May as an 8.6 percent drop in exports offset a fractional rise in home-market sales.
Output fell to 698,841, as exports slid to 308,661, according to the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association. As previously reported, sales in Japan rose slightly from May 1998 levels.
Exports to the long-troubled Asian markets rose for the second straight month, climbing 8.2 percent from their May 1998 mark. Individual Asian markets recovered dramatically, with shipments to Thailand surging to 3,508 from 834 in May 1998, and those to peninsular Malaysia soaring to 2,389 from just 5 a year earlier.
In addition, exports to the United States jumped 19.7 percent and those to Canada rose 20.8 percent.
However, shipments to South America tumbled 70.8 percent, dragging total exports lower. In addition, exports to Europe slid 12.1 percent and those to the Mideast dropped 33.2 percent.
The output figures would have been much worse, but for a 30.1 percent rise in production of minivehicles, cars and trucks with engines smaller than 660cc, to 138,649. Sales of those models remain robust, as Japanese consumers opt for the least expensive vehicles on the market and makers respond with an increasing number of revised minivehicle models.
On the other hand, production of trucks, excluding minitrucks, dropped 24.8 percent. Light-truck output fell for a record 28th straight month, dropping 19.4 percent. Medium- and heavy-duty truck production slid 29.3 percent.
Excluding minicars, passenger-car output fell 4.7 percent to 483,065.