Vehicle exports jumped 20.6 percent in the first half of calendar 1997 from a year earlier to 2.18 million vehicles, an industry association said July 28.

The year-on-year growth was largely due to a 122.3 percent increase in U.S.-bound exports, their first upturn since 1986, the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association said. The association also said the rises in exports to European Union member states, and Central and South America also contributed to growth in the January-June period.

Exports of passenger cars soared 22.4 percent to 1.69 million units, while truck exports increased 13.8 percent to 451,647 units. Bus exports also moved up, by 24.2 percent to 28,068 units. In value terms, exports in the six-month period amounted to $40.37 billion, up 6 percent, the association said, adding all Japanese automakers saw their exports increase for the first time since 1981. In June alone, vehicle exports jumped 31.9 percent to 418,137, marking the 13th consecutive month of year-to-year increases, according to the association.

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