Domestic sales of vehicles fall for third straight fiscal year

Domestic sales of new cars, trucks and buses in fiscal 1999, which ended Friday, fell 5.5 percent from the previous year to 3,980,657 units, down for the third consecutive year, the Japan Automobile Dealers Association said Monday.

It was the first time in 15 years that new car sales for a fiscal year did not reach 4 million units, association officials said.

Sales of passenger cars with an engine capacity of 661cc or more decreased 6 percent to 2,909,651 units. Sales of trucks, including sport-utility vehicles, also decreased 4.4 percent to 1,055,142 units, down for the third consecutive year.

Association officials said the prolonged economic slump and growing unemployment concerns discouraged new car purchases.

But sales of buses in fiscal 1999 increased 13.5 percent to 15,864 units due to increased sales of small buses, they said.

In March alone, overall sales of new vehicles decreased 3.3 percent from a year earlier to 573,295 units.

Sales of passenger cars dropped 4 percent to 418,717 units and truck sales decreased 1.9 percent to 150,453 units. Buses increased 25.3 percent to 4,125 units.

Sales of new vehicles are measured by registrations.

Import rights transfer

Yanase & Co. transferred to the Japanese subsidiary of General Motors Corp. its right to import Opel and Chevrolet cars, effective Saturday, the two companies announced Monday.

Yanase, Japan’s biggest automobile importer, will continue selling Opel and Chevrolet cars and providing after-sale services.

The transfer is part of Yanase’s cost-reduction drive as the maintenance of the rights requires the company to advertise and secure places to keep cars.

Yanase sold 19,427 Opels and 4,582 Chevrolets in 1999.

Opel and Chevrolet cars are part of GM’s product line-up.