Auto sales in Japan declined to their lowest in 38 years, slumping 9 percent to 2.9 million vehicles for 2009, an industry group said Tuesday.

Auto sales have been hammered by the economic slowdown as consumers tightened their pursestrings, despite tax breaks and cash-for-clunkers incentives introduced by the government.

Sales of new vehicles for 2009 fell below 3 million units for the first time since 1971, the Japan Automobile Dealers Association said.

When including minicars, which have a smaller engine, sales fell below 5 million vehicles for the first time in 31 years at 4.6 million units last year, it said.