Japan's new vehicle market declined by 3.5% to 667,275 units in March from strong year earlier sales of 691,374 units, according to registration data released by the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association.

This was the sixth consecutive monthly decline for the market from relatively high year earlier levels, after the country posted its longest period of uninterrupted economic growth since the boom years of the 1980s in the fourth quarter of last year. But there were signs the strengthening yen was beginning to affect confidence among major exporting companies.

First quarter sales were 2.3% lower at 1,540,691 units from 1,577,749 units a year earlier, with passenger vehicle sales falling by 2.7% to 1,303,909 units while truck sales were unchanged at 232,236 units. Medium and heavy duty bus sales were 12% lower at 4,546 units after particularly strong growth in previous years.

Toyota's sales fell by 9.2% to 419,203 units in the three month period while second placed Honda saw its volume drop by just 0.3% to 218,992 units, Nissan 206,183 units (-3.2%); Suzuki 200,595 units (+1.2%); Daihatsu 188,058 units (+7.0%); and Mazda 70,940 units (+1.0%).

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