The nation’s import car market will probably remain weak for another two to three years, the head of Volkswagen Group Japan KK said April 14, pointing to the continued sluggishness of the economy.

At a news conference for the debut of the Passat Wagon in Japan, Mitsuru Sato, president of Volkswagen Group Japan, said the carmaker has revised its sales target in Japan for 1998 downward from 60,000 units to 56,000.

The level of Japan’s import auto sales in 1997 was lower than in 1996 and 1995, and sales of import autos have dropped nearly 30 percent in March from the previous year. “It may take two to three years for the import market to recover. Meanwhile, differences (in sales volume) among automakers will expand,” Sato said, adding that his company managed to increase its share in Japan among German automakers to 30 percent this year from 27.9 percent last year.

The company hopes to increase its sales in Japan with the new 1.8-liter Passat Wagon, which hit the Japanese market April 14. The car is priced at 3.125 million yen, and the turbo-engine model is priced at 3.595 million yen. With a higher grade model to be introduced in July, the automaker hopes to sell 4,000 units of the vehicle this year.

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