Japan’s domestic vehicle production fell 56.2% year on year in February to 481,396 units, marking the steepest fall since comparable data became available in 1967 for the fourth consecutive month, an industry body said on Monday.

The number of vehicles produced in Japan was the lowest for the month of February since 1971, as automakers substantially cut output to cope with falling demand amid the global economic deceleration, the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association told Kyodo News.

It was also the fifth consecutive month of fall from a year earlier.

Of the total, passenger car production decreased 57.4% to 403,144 units and truck output dropped 47.9% to 71,693 units, both marking record drops, the association said. Bus production was down 51.1% to 6,559 units, for the second consecutive month of decline.

Toyota slashed production 64.0% to 141,127 units, and Honda Motor cut output 48.4% to 54,748 units. Nissan Motor was down 68.8% to 43,885 units.

The sharp production cutbacks came amid the global decline in vehicle demand. Data released earlier show that sales in Japan in February, for example, plunged 32.4% from a year earlier to 218,212 units, the largest drop since May 1974. New car sales in the United States in the same month also tumbled to the lowest level in about 27 years.

Japan’s overall vehicle exports, which account for about half of domestic output, shrank 63.9% to 212,107 units, the lowest figure for February since 1975. It is also the largest drop since comparable data became available in 1972.

Exports to all major destinations declined. Those to North America, the largest overseas market for Japan-made cars, tumbled 66.0% to 73,883 units, while those to Europe slipped a record 69.2% to 40,541 units. Those to Asia dropped 61.7% to 18,041 units and to Latin America plunged record 63.5% to 15,720 units.

Both domestic production and exports are expected to mark their first drop in seven years for the entire fiscal 2008 ending Tuesday, given that their figures for the first 11 months of the year fell a little over 10% from a year earlier and taking into account planned output cuts for March.

Of total exports in February, cars dropped 64.1% to 186,425 units, trucks fell 65.1% to 19,338 units, and buses declined 54.1% to 6,344 units, Kyodo News said.