The Japanese government has introduced its own version of a 'cash for clunkers' scheme for buyers of new low-emission cars.

On Friday, it began accepting applications for subsidies on the purchase of petrol-electric hybrids, zero emission electric vehicles and other eco-friendly cars.

Dealers complete application forms on behalf of buyers and file them with the Next Generation Vehicle Promotion Centre, which aims to process them and pay the subsidies within several weeks.

The programme, along with tax breaks for new fuel-efficient cars implemented last April, is part of the government's efforts to spur spending, Kyodo News reported.

Consumers can receive a subsidy of JPY250,000 (EUR1,868; GBP1,593; $US2,604) if they replace a car which has been registered for more than 13 years with a standard-sized 'eco-friendly' car. The subsidy is JPY125,000 for minivehicles with engines up to 660 cc.

If consumers buy new fuel-efficient cars without trading in old cars, a subsidy of JPY100,000 will be given for standard cars and JPY50,000 for minivehicles.

The subsidies are applicable to new cars meeting certain fuel consumption standards that have been registered on or after 10 April and purchasers are required to use them for at least one year.