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Auto production slump eases further

TOKYO, Sept 28 – Toyota Motor announced on Monday its first year-on-year rise in overseas production in 13 months as Japan\’s auto giants slowly get back on track after the worst recession in decades.

Toyota\’s smaller rival Nissan also saw the first increase in domestic sales since July 2008, while demand for Honda vehicles rose for a second straight month, helped by government incentives for people to buy new cars.

Toyota Motor, the world\’s biggest automaker, said its global production fell 8.7 percent year-on-year in August to 508,673 vehicles, but that was better than a 20.1 percent drop in July.

Outside of Japan its output rose 4.7 percent from a year earlier to 309,589 vehicles, while domestic sales went up 9.5 percent to 92,621.

Nissan Motor said its global production dropped 13.7 percent in August year-on-year to 217,954 vehicles, against a 15.9 percent drop in July.

But global sales were just 0.2 percent lower than a year earlier at 299,400 vehicles and domestic sales gained 0.8 percent to 40,925 vehicles.

Honda Motor\’s global production was down 16.6 percent last month from a year earlier to 246,403 vehicles, after a 24.3 percent slump in July.

But its production in Asia and China set all-time records and domestic sales rose 4.2 percent to 40,720 vehicles, the company said.

Vehicle sales in Japan rose in August from a year earlier for the first time in 13 months, an automobile dealers\’ association has reported.

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Domestic auto sales had fallen to a 38-year low in the business year to March 2009 as the global economic slump weighed on consumer sentiment.

The popularity of fuel-efficient vehicles, helped by government tax breaks, is helping to re-energise ailing world auto markets.

In the United States, Toyota\’s Corolla, Camry and Prius were some of the top-selling cars under Washington\’s "cash-for-clunkers" programme that offered customers cash for trading gas-guzzlers but ended last month.

Major Japanese automakers have suffered losses or sharply reduced earnings because of a slump in sales, prompting thousands of jobs cuts.

Toyota said earlier this month that it would hire about 800 temporary workers, in another sign of life slowly returning to the troubled industry.

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