( Edmunds AutoObserver )New-vehicle sales in Japan could tumble 14% this year after the March 11 earthquake and resulting tsunami disrupted vehicle production in the nation for months. The Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association said today it projects light-vehicle sales in Japan could fall to 4.45 million in the fiscal year that ends next March. The number would be the lowest total sales in Japan since the 1978 fiscal year.

The JAMA expects sales for the second half of the 2012 fiscal year to improve by 17.4% as the nation’s automakers return to full manufacturing capability. But the increase won’t offset the nation’s 28.6% plunge in new-vehicle sales in the first five months of the fiscal year that began in April. The JAMA said overall demand will remain sluggish. Japan cut government incentives for new-vehicle purchases last fall and the country continues to grapple with the aftermath of the earthquake and its place in a struggling world economy.