Domestic sales of new minivehicles in May rose 1.3 percent from the previous year to 134,617 units, the first increase in two months, the Japan Minivehicles Association said Tuesday.

By category, passenger minicar sales increased 3.6 percent to 90,526 vehicles, up for the fifth straight month, but sales of minivans and trucks fell 3 percent to 44,091 units, down for the fifth straight month.

Minivehicles are defined as having engine displacements of up to 660cc.

By maker, Honda Motor Co.’s sales jumped 9.4 percent from a year earlier to 19,675 vehicles because of increased sales of minicars for commercial use.

Minicar sales at Daihatsu Motor Co. rose by 1.7 percent to 38,261 vehicles because of increased sales of new passenger minicar models.

Association officials said that sales of minivehicles are expected to maintain the current level.

Import cars also rise

Sales of imported vehicles in May increased 2.1 percent from the previous year to 19,705 units, the first increase in five months, the Japan Automobile Importers Association said Tuesday.

Sales of imported cars made by foreign automakers fell 0.4 percent to 17,640 units, down for the second straight month.

But sales of imported vehicles assembled overseas by Japanese carmakers jumped 29.8 percent to 2,065 units, the first increase in eight months, due to increased sales of Toyota Motor Corp.’s new Pronard, association officials said.

Volkswagen models sold 4,198 units in May, becoming the most-favored among imported cars, followed by Mercedes-Benz with 3,418 cars, and BMW with 2,134.

Project to end early

Nissan Motor Co. and Ford Motor Co. announced Monday that they will terminate their joint minivan production project two years ahead of schedule.

The project, which involves the joint production of the Nissan Quest and Ford’s Mercury Villager, was originally scheduled to end in the 2004 model year.

A Nissan official said the two companies will call off the agreement at the end of the 2002 model year.

Nissan will end the Quest model after 2002.

Nissan and Ford launched the joint production project in the early 1990s in a bid to break into the minivan market, which had been dominated by Chrysler Motor Corp., now DaimlerChrysler.

Sales of the Quest and the Villager, which went into production in 1992, reportedly peaked in 1995 and have slipped in recent years.