TOKYO -- Japanese vehicle sales excluding 660cc minivehicles fell 6.5 percent in April to 248,302 units, marking the first year-on-year fall in eight months, the Japan Automobile Dealers Association said on Thursday.
Analysts attributed the drop mainly to a reaction to better-than-expected growth during the first three months of the year, when automakers likely launched aggressive sales campaigns before closing their books on March 31.
The sales drop was somewhat offset by a 49 percent surge in demand for regular trucks as firms replaced old vehicles in order to meet stricter emissions regulations to be introduced in Tokyo later this year.
But that was far from enough to make up for a 10 percent drop in sales of small cars, which account for about four-fifths of the passenger car segment.
Still, analysts said sales should pick up again later in the year with the launch of new models such as Toyota Motor Corp.'s Raum multi-purpose vehicle and Mitsubishi Motors Corp's Grandis minivan.
"The sales figure shouldn't stay this low," said ING Securities analyst Kurt Sanger, noting that April sales were the lowest on a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) basis since June 1985.
Honda Motor Co., the nation's second-biggest auto maker, was hit hardest in April with non-minivehicle sales falling 38 percent as Toyota's Wish minivan ate into sales of its Stream. Honda's sales were down for the fourth straight month.
With two new models introduced so far this year, Toyota managed a 1.6 percent rise in non-mini sales, while Nissan Motor Co. suffered a 9.3 percent fall as the popular March subcompact reached its first birthday.
For the January to April period, non-minivehicle sales totalled 1,455,176 units, up 4.3 percent from a year earlier.