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Japan 2021 1st-half new car sales up 11.6%, below pre-pandemic level

This May 22, 2019 file photo taken in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward shows the Metropolitan Expressway. (Mainichi)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- New car sales in Japan increased 11.6 percent in the first half of 2021 from a year earlier, but fell short of a rebound from the pre-coronavirus pandemic level in 2019 due to a global shortage of semiconductors, industry body data showed Thursday.

    Automakers sold a total of 2,464,586 units including minivehicles from the January to June period, rising for the first time in two years following the steep pandemic-induced fall in 2020, according to the Japan Automobile Dealers Association and the Japan Mini Vehicles Association.

    However, compared to the same period in 2019, sales fell 10.5 percent as the supply of chips was disrupted by the pandemic. Semiconductors are used in everything from smartphones and laptops to cars.

    Excluding minivehicles, powered by engines no larger than 660 cc, sales rose 8.7 percent to 1,521,878 vehicles.

    By brand, Toyota Motor Corp. saw sales up 14.1 percent due to high demand for its Yaris Cross SUV, which rolled out in August 2020, while those of Honda Motor Co. declined 10.7 percent, partially because the automaker had to temporarily halt some of its factories as it struggled to procure enough chips.

    Sales of minicars grew 16.7 percent to 942,708 vehicles.

    Daihatsu Motor Co.'s TAFT Mini Crossover newly launched in June 2020 lifted the automaker's sales up 23.3 percent, while sales of Suzuki Motor Corp. rose 19.3 percent.

    In June alone, new car sales increased 5.3 percent to 365,631, according to the data.

    An official from the Japan Automobile Dealers Association said sales will "continue to be affected," with some automakers possibly halting factory operations this month due to the lack of semiconductors.

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