Japan’s auto industry is bracing for a bleak year, even as the country celebrates the Year of the Ox, an animal largely associated with dependability and calmness. Those who study the Chinese zodiac, which Japan follows, forecast good prospects in the year’s second half. However, analysts tracking the effect of the global economic crisis aren’t so upbeat. The year already is off to an inauspicious start with new-car sales, not counting minivehicles, plummeting 27.9% in January to ...

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