Sales of vehicles in Japan rose for the first time in two months in April, according to data released by dealer association JADA. However, underlying demand in Japan remains weak under the weight of high fuel prices.

Consumers rushed to buy new vehicles following the termination of the gasoline surcharge, which reduced retail prices of gasoline by over 20 yen per litre, the Japan Automobile Dealers Association said.

But the government reinstated the gasoline surcharge as of today after the lower house of the Diet passed a bill earlier this week.

In a bid to prop up sluggish demand, leading makers continued to release new models.

Sales of new cars, trucks and buses, excluding minivehicles, rose 6.9% to 232,993 units, JADA said.

Car sales rose 9.4% to 201,155 units.

Despite the rebound in April, the underlying trend remains weak as higher gasoline prices continue to turn off prospective buyers.

The association said last month that sales of new cars, trucks and buses, excluding minivehicles, fell 4.5% to 3.43 million units in the fiscal year ended in March, the lowest level since the year to March 1975 when sales stood at 3.34 million.

Separately, the Japan Minivehicle Association reported that domestic sales of new minivehicles fell 2.8% to 135,837 units, the 13th straight monthly fall.