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Sales of minivehicles jumped 32.1 percent to 907,049 units in the first half of the 1999 business year from the same period last year, the first increase in four years, the Japan Mini Vehicles Association reported Wednesday.

The improved figure is the second-highest since the association started compiling such statistics in 1967, an official of the association said.

In the minicar sector of the market, sales of passenger cars increased 52.9 percent to 594,709 units, while sales of commercial vehicles rose 4.9 percent to 312,340 units.

In contrast to sluggish sales of larger cars and trucks, sales of minicars, with engine displacements of up to 660cc, have remained strong in the six months since the government introduced larger specifications for minicars last October and automakers introduced new models to take advantage of the new standards.

Monthly sales of minicars in September reached 173,924 units, up 40.3 percent on a year-on-year basis and marking the 12th consecutive monthly increase, the official said.

Sales logged a record high for the month of September, the official said.

Meanwhile, the Japan Automobile Importers’ Association has reported that accumulated sales of imported cars in the April-September period totaled 135,345 units, up 2.3 percent from a year earlier.

Of the cars imported, sales of those imported by foreign manufacturers during the six-month period dropped 1.4 percent to 123,197 units from the same period last year.

In comparison, sales of vehicles manufactured by Japanese automakers at plants abroad and imported to Japan increased 65.3 percent from the previous year to 12,148 units.

Monthly sales of imported cars in September totaled 25,333 units, down 0.1 percent on a year-on-year basis.

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