New vehicle sales in Japan fell by 8.6% to 635,901 units in March, from 695,412 units a year earlier, according to registration data released by the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA). 

The shrinking vehicle market reflects sluggish economic growth in the country, despite negative interest rates and other ongoing government stimulus programmes.

All major segments of the vehicle market were negative last month, with only bus sales enjoyed positive growth. The sharpest decline was in the minicar market, which saw sales falling by almost 20% to 185,674 units.

In the first three months of the year, total vehicle sales were 6.9% lower at 1,470,104 units, from 1,578,880 units a year earlier.

Passenger vehicle sales declined by 7.5% to 1,243,576 units in the first quarter; truck sales were lower by 3.9% at 21,514 units; while bus sales rose by over 17% to 5,014 units.

Toyota's first quarter sales fell by 3.2% year-on-year to 403,271 units; second placed Honda reported a 19.8% sales decline to 215,301 units; Nissan 189,926 units (-8.0%); Daihatsu 179,980 units (-11.6%); Suzuki 182,295 units (-3.4%); and Mazda 68,899 units (-16.0%).