Japan's new vehicle sales plunge after quake
Japan's domestic sales of new cars, trucks and buses dropped 37 percent from a year earlier last month, as the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami hit production and supplies to auto dealers.
Auto sales totalled 279,389 in March, the seventh-straight monthly decline, the Japan Automobile Dealers Association said Friday.
The 9.0 magnitude earthquake, Japan's biggest ever recorded, three weeks ago unleashed a tsunami that devastated swathes of the northeast coastline and hit the production of all of Japan's automakers.
The latest data are one of the first indications of how severely the disasters have impacted Japan's economy.
Auto assembly and part manufacturing plants have been shuttered amid power shortages and a lack of components for both domestic and overseas car makers.
Toyota led the falls, with its sales down 46 percent, while Nissan's sales slumped 38 percent and Honda's fell 28 percent.
Most automakers have temporarily shut down a large proportion of their factories, largely due to auto part supply chain disruptions, with power shortages in and around the Tokyo area adding to uncertainty.
None of the major makers suffered serious plant damage from the disaster in Japan's northeast, ratings agency Standard & Poor's noted in a report last week.
Japan's auto giants are largely concentrated in the vast urban and industrial belt between Tokyo, Nagoya and the major western port of Osaka.
Partial damage to some Honda factories and to the Iwate prefecture plant of Toyota subsidiary Kanto Auto Works has been reported, S&P said.
Most Japanese automakers have said they will be unable to return to full operations until around mid-April due to the limited availability of key components and electricity shortfalls.