New car, truck and bus sales in Japan shot up 78.2 percent in March compared to a year earlier as government subsidies buoyed the industry and offset the effect of a stronger yen.

Total sales for March reached 497,959 vehicles, up from 279,389, the Japan Automobile Dealers Association said Monday, according to the Wall Street Journal. Mini-car and mini-trucks are not included in the sales figures.

Sales were down 37 percent in March 2011 due to the earthquake and tsunami, exaggerating the sharp increase in March sales this year, according to the Wall Street Journal.

March's surge continues a seven-month trend in rising car sales, the Journal said, following a 32 percent increase in February and a 41 percent increase in January. The government initiated a ¥300 billion ($3.6 billion) program to subsidize sales of fuel-efficient cars in December and will begin accepting applications in April for either ¥70,000 or ¥100,000 subsidies.

The government subsidy will be available for cars bought between Dec. 20, 2011, and Jan. 31, 2013, The Associated Press said.

The subsidies are meant to offset export a drop in export production due to the high value of the yen, the Journal said. The strong yen has made Japanese made cars less competitive in international markets.

Sales for January through March rose 3 percent compared to the same period last year to reach 3.1 million vehicles, the AP said.

Toyota Motor Corp. posted the highest March sales increase of 104 percent, according to Reuters. Nissan Motor Co. followed with a 77.6 percent increase in sales and Honda saw a 55.2 percent increase.