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Japan's top auto makers see drop in global output in May

GLOBAL production at Japan's top auto makers tumbled in May, hit by a lingering slump in demand and uncertainty over a recovery in the battered industry.

Toyota Motor Corp, the world's biggest car maker, said yesterday its global output fell 38.8 percent from a year earlier to 442,621 vehicles - the 10th straight monthly decline.

Toyota's production in the United States plunged 48.2 percent to around 56,000. Toyota runs five auto plants in the US. In Japan, Toyota made 192,637 vehicles, a 41.9 percent fall year on year.

Like their foreign rivals, Japanese auto makers have been hammered by the global slump in auto demand, tightening credit in the key North American market and the strong yen, which erodes their overseas profits.

Amid the industry's worst crisis, shareholders of the Japanese auto giant approved on Tuesday the appointment of Akio Toyoda as new president. Toyoda, the grandson of the auto maker's founder Kiichiro Toyoda, faces the daunting task of reviving the battered company.

Toyota lost 436.9 billion yen (US$4.6 billion) during the fiscal year through March, its worst loss since it was founded in 1937. It expects an even larger loss this year.

Honda Motor Co, Japan's No. 2 auto maker, said its global production continued to tank in May. Honda made 195,085 vehicles worldwide, down 38.4 percent.

To cope with plummeting demand, Honda halted production in Europe from February to May. But Honda said it is resuming output at its plant in Swindon, in southern England, Honda's only vehicle factory in Europe.

Nissan Motor Co said the pace of decline in global output became moderate in May. The Japanese car maker, allied with Renault SA of France, made 201,340 vehicles worldwide, down 27 percent from a year ago.

Nissan's output in Spain nosedived 68.4 percent in May and 41.4 percent in the US. Output in Japan tumbled 36.3 percent.


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