Japan auto production marks worst drop since 1967

Japan auto production marks worst drop since 1967

Tokyo: Japan’s production of cars, trucks and buses marked its steepest fall in at least four decades in November, an industry group said on Thursday, as the fallout from the US slowdown crimped auto demand.

Auto production in Japan, home to Toyota Motor Corp. and other major automakers, plunged 20.4% in November compared to the same month a year ago to 854,171 vehicles, the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association said.

That marked the second straight month of on-year declines and the percentage slide was the biggest since the group began compiling such data in 1967, it said.

Production of passenger cars in Japan decreased 20.3% in November from the previous year to 737,797 vehicles, while production of trucks here declined 20.9% for the month to 106,170.

Japanese automakers, which also include Honda Motor Co., Nissan Motor Co. and several other manufacturers, have been hammered by the dwindling of demand in the US, the world’s biggest auto market.

Japanese plants are being idled to reduce production, and thousands of assembly line workers have lost their jobs in recent weeks.

“Even if we are doing our utmost, the global crisis is coming at us like a tidal wave," Teruyuki Minoura, president of Daihatsu Motor Co., a Toyota affiliate, told reporters Thursday.

Earlier this month, the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association said it expected demand in Japan will dive next year to its lowest in about three decades.

Sales of new autos are expected to stand at 4.86 million in 2009, down 4.9% from what it’s projecting for this year at 5.11 million, the group said.

New vehicle sales in Japan have never dipped below the 5 million mark since 1980. They reached 7.78 million in 1990, during this nation’s heyday “bubble" economy.

Vehicle sales in Japan stood at about 5.02 million in 1980, and at 4.31 million in 1975.

Toyota executive vice president Akio Toyoda apologized for the public concern that Japan’s top automaker has set off by forecasting its first operating loss in seven decades for the fiscal year ending March 2009.