Japan's new car sales in January fell 12.4 percent from a year earlier to 334,838 units, industry data showed Thursday, marking the first drop in 17 months as Daihatsu Motor Co.'s shipment halt following a safety test rigging scandal brought small car sales to a record low.

Mini-vehicle sales, where the small-car unit of Toyota Motor Corp. holds a large share, fell 22.9 percent to 117,912 units, the lowest figure for the month since comparable data became available in 1999, according to the Japan Light Motor Vehicle and Motorcycle Association.

Sales of such cars at Daihatsu plunged 62.2 percent to 19,346 units. Toyota and Subaru Corp. also saw their numbers plunged 51.2 percent and 64.3 percent, respectively, as some of their models were made by Daihatsu and subjected to the shipment halt.

The current standard for mini-vehicles was established in October 1998, and the January sales figure was the lowest for the month since then, the association said.

New car sales, excluding mini-vehicles, fell 5.5 percent to 216,926 units. Daihatsu logged a 69.5 percent drop to 897 vehicles, with Toyota seeing a decrease of 14.4 percent to 103,975 cars, according to the Japan Automobile Dealers Association.

The latest data was released as Daihatsu, one of the biggest mini-vehicle makers in Japan, was unable to ship its cars domestically during the entire duration of the month.

Daihatsu stopped all shipments at home and abroad in December, saying that a third-party investigation found that most of its cars were affected by data rigging in safety tests.

The automaker said Wednesday it will partly resume domestic production on Feb. 12 and domestic shipments from Monday, as Japan's transport ministry lifted a shipment ban on some of the vehicles affected by the scandal.

The company has already restarted operations in Indonesia and Malaysia in December after obtaining approval from local authorities.

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