TOKYO - Dragged down by slowing demand in the United States and Europe, Japan's vehicle exports got off to a weak start this year.
The drop also pulled down production. Output in January slipped 1.1 percent from a year earlier to 745,796 units, despite a 0.9 percent rise in sales in Japan.
Exports in January fell 6.7 percent from a year earlier to 310,101, according to the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association. Shipments to the United States shrank 5.8 percent, while exports to the European Union slid 27.1 percent - the sixth straight month of decline.
Among Japan's Big Five, Mazda Motor Corp. was alone in posting higher exports in January.
The drop in U.S.-bound shipments partly reflected a slowdown in the world's largest market, while, in Europe, the weaker euro against the yen made Japanese cars more expensive and less competitive.
But the decline in Europe-bound exports also reflects increased local production there by Japanese makers.
Toyota Motor Corp., for example, exported 230,000 Yaris subcompacts to Europe last year. But the company began producing the car at a new plant in France last month, and will turn them out at a rate of 150,000 a year by the middle of next year.
Similarly, Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. have notched up production in Europe of vehicles that formerly were exported from Japan.
In contrast, demand for Japanese vehicles in Asia remained strong last month, rising 23.3 percent from a year earlier.
Meanwhile, output in January rose 5.4 percent at Honda and 1.0 percent at Toyota. But it was flat at Nissan and fell 12.6 percent at Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and 15.2 percent at Mazda.