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Japan Vehicle Sales Rise Most Since 1972 on Subsidy

Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. led the biggest increase in Japan’s monthly auto sales in 38 years as car buyers rushed to take advantage of government subsidies set to expire this month.

Sales of cars, trucks and buses, excluding minicars, rose 47 percent to 290,789 in August from a year earlier, the Japan Automobile Dealers Association said in a statement today. The surge was the biggest since December 1972.

Japan’s auto sales started recovering in August 2009 from a yearlong decline as government rebates and tax cuts for fuel-efficient vehicles revived demand. Sales in the six months beginning Oct. 1 may drop 23 percent from a year earlier after the subsidy program ends Sept. 30, according to a forecast by the dealers association.

July’s surge “is definitely due to buyers rushing in” before the subsidy program expires, said Michiro Saito, in charge of general affairs and statistics at the association. “We will have to see to what extent carmakers’ incentives will be able to make up for the subsidies.”

Toyota, the world’s largest automaker, sold 130,092 vehicles excluding Lexus-brand models, up 43 percent. The carmaker’s Prius hybrid was Japan’s best-selling model, with deliveries rising 24 percent to 34,456 in July.

Honda, Nissan

Honda, Japan’s second-largest carmaker, boosted sales 61 percent to 50,195. Deliveries at Nissan Motor Co., the third-largest, gained 45 percent to 44,857.

Toyota’s domestic sales in the fiscal second half from October may drop 28 percent, led by the Prius, according to Yoshiaki Kawano, an analyst at consulting company IHS Automotive. Honda’s Japan sales may drop 21 percent to 290,000 from 367,718 a year earlier, the Tokyo-based carmaker’s Executive Vice President Koichi Kondo said July 30.

Nissan’s decline may be limited to 1 percent as the Yokohama-based company plans to introduce a new Serena minivan in September and has already introduced a new March compact and Juke compact crossover, Kawano said. A new Elgrand minivan also hit showrooms Aug. 18.

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