Sales of all new vehicles in Japan fell back 2.2% in January against a year earlier. Total sales, which include all types of vehicle, declined to 369,112 units. Standard vehicle sales – which exclude 660cc mini vehicles or Kei class vehicles – fell by 2.6% to 248,489 units according to figures released by the Japan Automobile Dealers Association.

Analysts say that worries over the economy and depressed consumer confidence continue to be reflected in a weak vehicle sales trend. The backdrop to auto sales this year in Japan is expected to remain difficult with the sluggish economy and falling prices causing consumers to hold back.

Most manufacturers experienced sales drops (Toyota, Nissan, Mazda and MMC all declined) but Honda emerges as a relatively strong performer, seeing the biggest gain of 14.5%.

Honda is currently riding the crest of a wave. In 2001, Honda edged Nissan to the number 2 spot in the Japanese market and the Fit (Jazz in export markets) was ‘Japan Car of the Year’.

The company is due to report results on February 5 and they are expected to be very strong, boosted by a weak yen, strong sales in Japan and a resilient performance in the North American market.