New car sales in Japan rose 93% in April following the earthquake and tsunami which hit the country just over a year ago.

Industry data showed that 359,631 units were sold during the month, up for the seventh straight month as sales of new cars, trucks and buses rebounded sharply following the March 2011 disaster that halted production across the country.

However, the latest sales figures were up only 2% from April 2010 and described by an official of the Japan Automobile Dealers Association as "not a great improvement".

Sales of minivehicles, with engine displacements of up to 660cc, grew 96% to 150,654 units.

Toyota, Honda and Daihatsu saw their sales more than double while sales at Fuji Heavy Industries rose 1.4%. Among major carmakers, the only decline was at Mitsubishi, down 9%.

Things are turning round for Subaru maker Fuji thanks to strong new products selling well at home and abroad.

Demand for its models is so high that it is the only Japanese carmaker with a month of inventory remaining across its network of US dealers. Orders for its new Impreza model are nearly three times higher than initially expected, and the Subaru BRZ - a new sports car developed jointly with Toyota  - has proved so popular that orders already stretch into next year.

Fuji’s decision to withdraw from minicar production and focus on small and midsize vehicles that are marketable in Japan and the US has proved a success.

It received orders for 3,551 BRZs before its 28 March launch date, four times more than its original sales target. In the first quarter this year, Fuji posted a 46% year-on-year jump in domestic sales, to 62,000 units.

US sales grew 16% to nearly 80,000 vehicles from a year ago.

However, despite its robust sales, foreign exchange rates are still a major concern for the company. If the Japanese currency rises JPY1 against the US dollar, it could wipe out JPY5.5bn from Fuji’s operating profit.

Analysts say the company has to further expand overseas production to bolster its earnings structure.