Japan's new-vehicle sales got a big boost from that nation's version of cash-for-clunker incentives in the third quarter. The incentives weren't enough to halt a slide in total sales but propelled the Toyota Prius to the top of the quarter's sales chart.
Total new-vehicle sales in the third quarter fell 2 percent from a year earlier to 1,217,329, dragged down in part by a 41 percent drop in sales of medium- and heavy-duty trucks. Light-vehicle sales slipped 1 percent to 1,191,565.
That decline was much less steep than the 21 percent collapse in light-vehicle sales in the first half of the year. Government tax incentives made the difference.
On May 29, the government passed a series of incentives for buyers of fuel-efficient new cars, whether or not they traded in a car. The incentives went into effect June 19 and will remain in place until March 31, 2010.
The incentives pushed sales of regular-sized cars up 5 percent in the third quarter after those cars had posted a sales drop of 25 percent in the first six months of the year.
The Prius was the best-selling nameplate in the third quarter with sales of 81,139. The Suzuki Wagon R, with sales of 50,347, was No. 2. It had been No. 1 through the first half.
Toyota had three nameplates in the top 10, but its extensive lineup of larger cars limited the boost to Toyota-brand vehicle sales to a 4 percent gain. Including sales of its Lexus, Daihatsu and Hino brands, Toyota Motor Corp.'s total sales edged up 2 percent.
Honda Motor Co. was the big winner from the government incentives. Its sales jumped 5 percent.