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Japan's carmakers' sales plunge along with Detroit's

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Robert Sullivan/AFP/Newscom/File

(Read caption) Toyota saw its April 2009 sales fall a whopping 41.9 percent, while Ford and GM sales declined less.

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America's car slump is an equal opportunity spoiler for large automakers.

Just as the Big Three automakers revealed deep declines in sales – again, so did their large Japanese counterparts.

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Ford's April sales of cars and light trucks fell 31.5 percent from a year ago; American Honda also dropped 25.3 percent. General Motors declined 33.2 percent; Nissan North America was down 37.8 percent. Chrysler, which flirted with bankruptcy that became official Friday, fell 48.1 percent. But Toyota, which faced no such problem, dropped 41.9 percent.

Even Toyota's once-mighty Prius hybrid saw sales decline 61.5 percent from a year ago.

Monthly sales figures are tricky because they often depend on the level of incentives that the carmakers offer. Toyota may have suffered from not offering enough. Still, April's number suggested that the recovery hasn't occurred yet in US showrooms – for domestic or foreign brands.

So who fared best last month?

Smaller foreign companies that offered great niche products, like Volkswagen (down 16.1 percent), Hyundai (13.6 percent), and Subaru (6.7 percent). The Subaru story is especially telling because in this historically difficult year, its year-to-date sales are down only 0.8 percent.

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