TOKYO — Honda Motor Co. led another drop in domestic sales for Japanese automakers in the July-September quarter, as the dismal market posted its ninth straight quarter of declines.
A dearth of new models in showrooms as well as high oil prices and concerns about a weaker economy contributed to an overall slide of 9.6 percent to 1,284,281 units for the period.
Of Japan's big five automakers, Honda booked the biggest tumble in the third quarter of 2007. Its sales fell 17.8 percent to 143,734 units. Things may pick up for the automaker after its October launch of the remodeled Fit subcompact, a top seller in Japan.
But automakers in Japan are still struggling with a sluggish economy and the long-term trend of a shrinking population. September was the 27th consecutive month of falling sales.
In the third quarter, even market-leader Toyota Motor Corp. felt the pinch.
Despite launching redesigned Noah and Voxy minivans in July, Toyota brand sales fell 4.2 percent to 370,241 units for the quarter. For the same period, Toyota Motor saw sales fall 7.1 percent to 531,654. The reversal prompted Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe to cut his yearly forecast for Japan sales, saying the company would likely miss its earlier target of 1.72 million units.
He told reporters on Oct. 9 that Toyota was closer to achieving sales around 1.65 million.
The one bright spot at Toyota Motor was Lexus, which continued to gain traction in its home market, where it was a late arrival to the luxury segment.
Lexus sales climbed 19.1 percent for the quarter to 7,889 units, from 6,622 units last year. Expect that trend to continue as the brand burnishes its image with October's launch of its new IS F sporty sedan.
Nissan Motor Co., Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and Mazda Motor Corp. all booked drops for the third quarter. Nissan dropped 6.0 percent; Mitsubishi, 14.0 percent; and Mazda, 4.5 percent.
Imports fared better.
Daimler AG edged up 0.3 percent for the third quarter to 12,336 vehicles. Volkswagen AG grew 3.6 percent to 16,090 units. Volkswagen AG remained the top import manufacturer. Daimler AG was third behind BMW AG.
Minivehicle sales dropped 12.9 percent to 442,869 units for the quarter. But their sales were still larger than the combined sales of Toyota brand and Lexus — 378,130.
The low-margin, low-cost 660cc minivehicles continued to account for about one-third of all new vehicles sold in Japan.