Japan auto sales up 0.1 pct in 2013 at 5.38 mln vehicles

TOKYO Mon Jan 6, 2014 2:04am EST

TOKYO Jan 6 (Reuters) - Annual automobile sales in Japan rose 0.1 percent in 2013 to 5.38 million vehicles, industry data showed on Monday, as strong sales from September countered earlier declines after green car subsidies ended in September 2012.

Sales in the world's third-biggest auto market is likely to continue growing year-on-year in the first three months of 2014 but outlook is murky following April when the sales tax will be raised, officials from Japan Automobile Dealers Association and Japan Light Motor Vehicle and Motorcycle Association said.

Japan is set to raise its sales tax in April to 8 percent from 5 percent.

In 2013, mini-vehicles with 660cc displacement posted record annual sales of 2.1 million vehicles, up 6.7 percent from a year earlier, helped by new models with better fuel efficiency and safety features, an official from Japan Light Motor Vehicle and Motorcycle Association said.

In December, industry-wide auto sales rose 25 percent to 423,210 vehicles, data from the two associations showed.

Excluding 660cc mini-vehicles, sales at top-ranked Toyota Motor Corp, including the Lexus brand, rose 11.9 percent, while Honda Motor Co soared 105.3 percent and Nissan Motor Co increased 1.0 percent.

In the United States, the world's second biggest auto market, sales in 2013 finished at 15.6 million vehicles, up 7.6 percent from 2012, its best year since the boom times before 2008. Industry-wide sales data for 2013 in China, the world's biggest auto market, has yet to be announced. (Reporting by Yoko Kubota; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)