TOKYO - New-vehicle sales in Japan fell 15.1 percent last month to 438,855 units. Tax-related purchases had boosted the market in February and March. Import sales fell 37 percent.
Sales in February and March boomed as shoppers hurried to beat the 1 April sales tax increase. The tax, which had been 3 percent, was increased to 5 percent. The tax-related buying took away from April.
For the year, sales are up 5.3 percent.
Import sales were 20,869 units. The decline was the largest since 1990, when the Japan Automobile Importers Association began releasing separate import-sales statistics.
Imports also have been hurt by a weaker yen, which makes imported cars more expensive.
Also, Japanese carmakers have reduced the number of cars they bring into Japan from their factories abroad.
Sales of all Japanese-brand imports fell 44.6 percent to 3,206 units in April. Volkswagen Group and BMW Group imported more.
Sales of vehicles with engines under 660cc fell 21.4 percent to 111,880 units, the Japan Mini Vehicles Association said.
Sales remained strong for recreational vehicles, including minivans, sport-utilities and station wagons. Japanese brand RV sales above the 660cc class rose 18.3 percent to 135,140 units, according to the Japan Automobile Dealers Association.
The sales drop hit all Japanese makers. Only Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. managed to limit their sales declines to less than 10 percent.
Honda's sales fell 4.1 percent, the first decline since December 1994. Nissan's dropped 5.5 percent. Sales at industry-leader Toyota Motor Corp. fell 16.6 percent.
Among imports, BMW brand scored a 2.9 percent sales gain. However, a drop at its Rover unit pulled group sales down 15.4 percent.
Sales were down 13 percent at VW Group, 41.6 percent at General Motors, 44.2 percent at Chrysler, 61.7 percent at Volvo and 66.1 percent at Ford.