Toyota's Domestic Sales up 50% in April

Due to its hybrid lineup, Toyota is among the biggest beneficiaries of the government's programs.

Despite millions of safety recalls worldwide, Toyota Motor's domestic sales rose 50% in April according to the Japan Automobile Dealers Association. Toyota sold 113,644 vehicles in the month, compared with 75,777 units a year ago.

Other Japanese makers such as Honda and Nissan also saw sales rise for the month, the association said, partly helped by a low basis of comparison with last year when the industry was hit by the financial crisis.

"The data offered further evidence that Toyota's recall incident caused little impact at home," said Ryoichi Saito, senior auto analyst at Mizuho Investors Securities. "Views among Japanese media and consumers were detached from (the tense criticism against Toyota) in the United States," he said.

Toyota's domestic sales recovery outpaced the wider Japanese auto market, which saw sales growth of 33.5% from a year ago to 222,095 vehicles.Its flagship Prius gas-electric hybrid vehicle continued to enjoy popularity at home.

The speed of recovery however was likely to taper off from June or July as the impact of the government's buying incentives begin to fade, Saito said.

Toyota's Japan figures do not include sales of subsidiaries Hino and Daihatsu Motors.

In the U.S. the automaker said on May 3 that U.S. sales rose 24.4% in April from a year earlier, despite recently recalling almost 10 million vehicles over accelerator pedal and brake problems blamed for 58 deaths in the US. The world's largest automaker reported year-on-year U.S. sales increased in its Toyota and Lexus divisions, partly helped by recent sales incentives such as zero-percent financing on recalled models and low lease rates.

Japan's auto industry has seen a steady recovery from the dire straits of last year, when global auto sales plunged as consumer spending froze during the international financial crisis. Toyota also significantly benefited from government stimulus programs that included special tax incentives for Japanese motorists to buy new cars.

"Because of Toyota's vast hybrid lineup, the company is probably among the biggest beneficiaries of the government's programs," analyst Saito said.

Among other major Japanese automakers, Honda Motor saw sales rise 13.3% to 36,710 vehicles in the month, while Nissan Motor sold 27,728 units, up 31% from last year.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010

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