A month after setting a new single-month sales record, delivering 8.25 million cars and trucks worldwide in March, global auto makers continued to improve on year-earlier results, though at a modest rate.

Auto companies sold 6.56 million vehicles worldwide in April, a 3.4% increase over same-month year-ago.

The year-over-year gain was sparked primarily by growth in the Asia/Pacific region, where sales in many markets jumped in comparison with year-ago’s tsunami-devastated sales results. Total deliveries in the region hit 2.81 million units in April, up 13.2% from last year and accounting for 42.9% of worldwide vehicle sales.

China, the world’s largest auto market, experienced a healthy 4.5% increase, moving 1.62 million vehicles during the month, while sales in Japan, which was in the midst of recovering from an earthquake and ensuing tsunami at this time last year, catapulted 93.7% to more than 360,000 vehicles.

Growth in North America was diminished somewhat by the fact that the month had three fewer selling days this year than last in the U.S. and Canada. Yet, the region’s overall sales volume of 1.44 million vehicles was up 2.6% over year-ago, accounting for 22% of global sales.

In the U.S., auto makers sold 1.2 million vehicles, a 2.8% improvement over prior-year, while deliveries in Canada were down 1%. Mexico sales were up 7%.

European vehicle sales fell for the fourth consecutive month in April, off 4.6% from year-ago, to 1.63 million units. The region’s share of all vehicle sales fell to 24.8% compared with 26.8% last year and 25.7% in March.

Relatively modest growth in the region’s two largest markets, Germany (+2.5%), and Russia (+13.7%), was offset by a 1.3% decline in France and 20.2% dropoff in Italy.

South America sales slowed 8.3%, giving the region a 6.4% share of global deliveries, compared with 7.2% in like-2011. The decline was due in large part to rising interest rates and tightening credit in Brazil, where sales were down 10.7% for the month.

April results brought the year-to-date tally for world vehicle sales to 27.2 million, up 3.5% over year-ago. The world sales-growth rate in coming months likely will remain positive in comparisons against inventory-depleted year-ago deliveries, particularly in Japan and the U.S., tempered by modest gains in China and continued slowdowns in Europe and South America.

jsousanis@wardsauto.com