Exports of passenger cars, trucks and buses increased 6.2 percent to 3.85 million units in the 1996 business year from the previous year, marking the first increase in five years, the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association reported April 28.

The figures may fuel concerns among the “Big Three” U.S. automobile manufacturers that Japanese car exports to the U.S. will grow further. Although Japanese industry officials brush aside such concerns, it is possible that the sharp increase of car exports may again become a source of trade friction between the two countries.

Backed by the yen’s weakness against the dollar, passenger car exports rose 7.5 percent for the first time since 1991 to 2.97 million units during the year that ended March 31. Exports of trucks increased 1.9 percent to 835,330 units, while bus exports rose 3 percent to 44,967 units, JAMA said. Exports to all regions except Asia rose, and Japanese automakers except for Isuzu Motors Ltd. and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. increased overseas shipments. Car exports to the United States expanded 5.3 percent, while exports to Europe rose 5.8 percent, the association said.

Meanwhile, JAMA also announced that car exports totaled 3.56 million units in March, up 9.3 percent from the same period last year. U.S.-bound exports rose 9.5 percent in March from a year ago, an increase for the seventh month in a row since September 1996.

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