Japan's vehicle output soars 174% in April

Japan's auto sector on Thursday reported huge increases in production for April from a year earlier, reflecting a steep recovery after last year's quake-tsunami disaster crippled output and demand.

Production of cars, trucks and buses reached 799,474 vehicles, up 173.8 percent from April 2011 and the seventh consecutive monthly increase, according to the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA).

The industry data come after heavyweights Toyota, Nissan, and Honda said Monday that they saw huge jumps in April output from a year ago when they slashed production and shuttered plants due to power shortages and a parts supply crunch owing to the March 2011 disaster.

Domestic vehicle sales, meanwhile, climbed 93.7 percent to 359,631 vehicles while exports surged 219.2 percent to 402,389 vehicles, JAMA said.

Japan's auto sector suffered one of its worst months on record in April 2011, while flooding in Thailand later in the year added to the pain as Japanese manufacturers with plants in the country saw major supply disruption.

Most automakers returned production to pre-quake levels by the end of 2011.

The yen also hit record highs against the dollar last year and remains strong, denting exporters' profits overseas.

The latest production figures come after data showed Toyota, Japan's biggest automaker, regained its position as the world's number one automaker in the first quarter of 2012, stealing back the lead from US giant General Motors.

On Monday, Toyota said output at its factories in Japan surged about four-fold to 352,973 vehicles last month, while rival Honda Motor's domestic output skyrocketed 514.4 percent to 87,049 vehicles.

Nissan's production jumped 94.0 percent to 85,734 at home, after the automaker earlier this month posted record sales and a profit of 341.43 billion yen ($4.33 billion) in the fiscal year through March as it shrugged off the disaster.

The company, part-owned by France's Renault, said sales rose to their highest-ever 9.41 trillion yen with 4.85 million vehicles sold globally, despite the natural disasters and high yen.

Nissan's results bucked a nationwide trend of falling profits in the auto sector in the last fiscal year, with Toyota saying its full-year net profit was 283.56 billion yen, a 30.5 percent on-year fall.

Honda's earnings for the period were down 60 percent to 211.5 billion yen.

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