Japanese auto sales fell by a third in May to their lowest total for that month since 1968.
The slump came as car makers struggled to restart production after March’s massive earthquake and tsunami.
However market leader Toyota said it expects its output to return to 90 percent of its pre-quake levels by this month.
Nissan and Honda have also said they are working to bring production back to normal as soon as possible.
Totals in the world’s third-biggest car market declined 33.4 percent from the same month in 2010 to 237,364 vehicles. The includes cars with smaller engines which are tallied separately.
Meanwhile in Europe, car sales in Spain and France declined after the ending of government incentives to replace older models.
French car sales fell 8.3 percent in May on an adjusted basis, industry association CCFA said.
Spain reported an even worse slump, with car association ANFAC reporting car sales sliding for the tenth straight month by 23.3 percent in May.