Japan’s car lobby says domestic auto sales recovering, warns on consumer spending

FILE PHOTO: Visitors look at cars at a car maker’s showroom in Tokyo May 1, 2014. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s influential car lobby said on Thursday domestic vehicle sales sharply recovered in September after the government lifted a lockdown in May, but warned the coronavirus pandemic would continue to weigh on consumer spending.

The world’s third largest economy suffered its worst postwar contraction in the second quarter, and while it has shown some signs of life recently, consumer and businesses remain cautious.

Seiichi Nagatsuka, vice chairman of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA), told a regular press briefing that domestic vehicle sales this month had recovered to almost the same level as September last year.

“I hear that sales have recovered to close to 90%, but a rebound in consumer spending is slowing and so the severe situation is unchanged,” said Nagatsuka.

The group, which is headed by Toyota Motor Corp President Akio Toyoda, represents all of Japan’s big automakers, including Toyota 7203.T , Nissan Motor Co 7201.T and Honda Motor Co. 7267.T.

Japan’s car sales fell by more than 40 percent year-on-year in May after Japan urged people to stay home in April in a bid to halt the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

JAMA wants the government to extend tax breaks given on car purchases earlier this year to offset the coronavirus fallout and to offer other incentives to boost domestic sales and support an industry it says employs more than five million workers.

Reporting by Tim Kelly and Maki Shiraki; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa

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