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Automobile production in 1999 dropped 1.5 percent from the previous year to 9,895,476 vehicles, falling below the 10 million mark for the first time in 20 years, the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association said Thursday. Auto production decreased for two consecutive years, according to the association.Of the total output, production of passenger cars rose 0.6 percent to 8,100,169 vehicles, the first increase in two years, due to the brisk sales of minicars. Production of minicars, which have an engine displacement up to 660cc, came to 1,257,267 units, exceeding 1 million for the first time, according to a JAMA spokesman. Production of small cars — those with engine displacement between 660cc and 2,000cc — dropped 9 percent to 3,684,380 vehicles. Output of larger cars — those with engine displacement above 2,000cc — grew 3.2 percent to 3,158,522 units due to favorable exports to the North American market, the spokesman said. Truck production fell 9.8 percent to 1,746,912 units, marking the fifth consecutive year of decline, and production of buses dropped 15 percent to 48,395 vehicles in the second consecutive year of decrease, according to JAMA.

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