Toyota's Japan Monthly Sales Up 48%

The surge was part of a broader rise in the domestic industry from a year ago when demand was hit by a deep recession.

As the carmaker displayed resilience at home despite its massive global safety recalls, sales were up 48% year-on-year in February.

Toyota delivered 146,145 cars, trucks and buses last month, the Japan Automobile Dealers' Association said.

The carmaker sold 3,373 units of its luxury Lexus brand, up 257% from the same period last year, the group said.

The surge was part of a broader rise in the domestic industry from a year ago when demand was hit by a deep recession. Sales in the sector rose 35% year-on-year to 294,887 units in February, JADA said.

Rivals Honda and Nissan also recorded strong figures. Sales of Japan's second largest carmaker Honda grew 36% to 41,009 units and Nissan's were up 18% to 47,948.

Government stimulus measures launched to boost the economy out of its worst post-war recession contributed to the rise, a JADA official said, adding that the trend will likely continue until the incentives end in September.

On March 2 Toyota is due to release its February data for the United States, its biggest overseas market, where sales fell 8.7%. Some investors are bracing for a drop by as much as 20% as the suspended models in the U.S. represented more than 60% of Toyota's inventory.

But the Japan figures were not a complete surprise to analysts as brand loyalty towards the carmaker remains strong in Japan and domestic dealers have responded swiftly to car repairs, the JADA official said. "The blows to Toyota's image here are contained thanks to dealers' handling of recalls. So I don't think the image has not been as dented as it has been overseas," he added.

The effects of Toyota's recalls on Japanese markets will only be known from this month when the recalls are included in the new sales figure, said SMBC Friend Research Center's auto analyst Shigeru Matsumura.

Toyota last month said it will recall some 223,000 hybrids in Japan including the newest third-generation Prius, as well as suspend sales of the Sai sedan and Lexus HS250h.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010

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