Sales in Japan of imported cars and trucks for February rose 8.6 percent from year-earlier levels to 36,759, the best showing for the month, an industry association said Mar. 6.

The steady gain stemmed in large part from hurried purchases by consumers ahead of the April 1 hike of the consumption tax from the present 3 percent to 5 percent, an industry official said. The Japan Automobile Importers Association said sales of passenger cars were up 5.5 percent to 33,750, with those of cars with engines of more than 2000cc down 7.5 percent to 21,237, and sales of smaller cars surging 38.6 percent to 12,513.

Sales of imported trucks rose strongly — 63.3 percent — to 3,009, the association said. No imported buses were sold in the month under review.

Sales in Japan of vehicles manufactured abroad by Japanese carmakers came to 6,132 vehicles, down 30.8 percent, bringing cumulative sales in this category for the January-March period to 10,332, down 32.7 percent. Excluding these vehicles, sales in February of imported vehicles increased 22.6 percent to 30,627, while sales for the January-March period amounted to 50,605, a 21.3 percent gain.

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