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The nation’s largest imported automobile trade show started Thursday in Tokyo, with the number of participating companies and cars on display significantly decreased from previous shows amid the economic slump.

A total of 25 companies are exhibiting 175 automobiles in this year’s Tokyo Imported Automobile Show, which takes place every two years. At the previous show in 1997, 30 companies exhibited 231 vehicles.

The nation’s imported auto market shrank 24.4 percent to 275,869 units in 1998 due to the domestic economic recession. “(1998) was a very difficult year for Rover Japan,” David Blume, president of Rover Japan Ltd. said, adding that Rover Group’s unit sales in Japan decreased for the first time in six years.

This year, participating companies appear to have selected for display new cars that they really want to sell. At the previous show, many companies also exhibited cars already on the market, said Tatsuyuki Nakai, a planner in the marketing services department of Ad Dentsu Tokyo Inc., which manages the exhibition.

Among the cars exhibited are Volkswagen’s new Beetle, which was released in North America last spring to great popularity. It will be introduced in Japan in the fall.

Saturn Japan of the General Motors Group displayed its Saturn SC2, which it touts as the world’s first three-door coupe. It has two doors on the left side and one on the right.

The show, which opened to the general public today, continues through Sunday at Tokyo Big Sight in the Tokyo Bay waterfront development area.

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