Toyota Motor Corp. said Wednesday its global sales in March surged 44.2 percent from a year earlier to a record 982,912 vehicles, buoyed by strength in its key U.S. and Chinese markets and showing a sharp rebound from the initial fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

Toyota's global sales and output rose for the seventh straight month on a year-on-year basis as it manufactured 843,393 vehicles in March, up 31.6 percent.

The pace of Toyota's recovery has been faster than its rivals, with global sales in the first three months of 2021 up 19.1 percent from the previous year, much higher than its target of 10 percent.

Strong demand for sport utility vehicles and hybrids in the United States as well as the Corolla sedan and other vehicles in China lifted Toyota's overseas sales to a record 791,568 vehicles in March, up 57.8 percent from a year ago.

In its home market Japan, Toyota's auto sales, which include minivehicles, rose 6.4 percent to 191,344 units in March.

In fiscal 2020 ended March, Toyota's global sales fell 4.0 percent from a year earlier to 9.09 million vehicles, while output dropped 6.4 percent to 8.18 million units.

The pandemic also hurt sales and output at other major Japanese automakers including Nissan Motor Co. and Honda Motor Co.

The total global output of eight major Japanese automakers, including Toyota, Nissan and Honda, fell 12.1 percent from a year earlier to 23.35 million vehicles in fiscal 2020 due to sluggish sales and plant closures amid the pandemic.

In the year to December, Toyota reclaimed its crown as the world's top-selling automaker for the first time in five years after selling 9.53 million units, outpacing German rival Volkswagen AG.

Toyota's Yaris compact was the best-selling vehicle in Japan last year. The Japanese automaker's group sales include those of minivehicle maker Daihatsu Motor Co. and truck manufacturer Hino Motors Ltd.

Among other Japanese automakers, Honda saw global output fall 5.0 percent to 4.53 million units in fiscal 2020, with the rapid recovery of demand in its mainstay Chinese market limiting the margin of decline.

For the year, Honda's production in China hit a record-high 1.87 million vehicles, up 37.0 percent from the previous year.

Nissan's global output in fiscal 2020 slumped 17.1 percent to 3.79 million units, while its partner Mitsubishi Motors Corp. in the three-way alliance with France's Renault SA reported a drop of 39.1 percent from a year earlier to 813,829 vehicles.

The global production of Suzuki Motor Corp., Daihatsu, Mazda Motor Corp. and Subaru Corp. also decreased by double-digit percentages from the previous year.

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