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DaimlerChrysler AG is likely to increase its proposed stake in Mitsubishi Motors Corp. to between 36 percent and 38 percent from the originally planned 34 percent, sources close to negotiations between the German-U.S. auto giant and the scandal-hit Japanese automaker said Wednesday.

The two companies are also likely to agree that DaimlerChrysler will send officials to Mitsubishi Motors to assume top positions, including the role of chief operating officer, the sources said.

The prospect emerged during a meeting Wednesday in Tokyo between top executives of the two automakers, which was held to discuss the new terms of their proposed alliance following the revelation that Mitsubishi Motors covered up customers’ complaints for three decades.

Participants in the meeting reportedly included Eckhard Cordes, a member of DaimlerChrysler’s management board, Mitsubishi Motors President Katsuhiko Kawasoe and MMC Vice President Takashi Sonobe, who has been chosen, though informally, to succeed Kawasoe.

Under the initially agreed terms of the alliance, DaimlerChrysler was to acquire a 34 percent equity stake in Mitsubishi Motors.

While DaimlerChrysler wants a larger stake, it intends to keep it below 40 percent, a level that would require the German-U.S. automaker to register Mitsubishi Motors Corp.’s debts on its consolidated results.

Mitsubishi Motors is expected to decide on new terms of the alliance at an extraordinary board meeting on Thursday.

Sales of imports rise

Sales of imported automobiles in Japan rose 6.3 percent in August from a year earlier to 18,157 units, the first year-on-year rise in two months, the Japan Automobile Importers Association said Wednesday.

Car sales jumped 7.3 percent to 16,789 units, also the first rise in two months, on the strength of new models, association officials said.

But sales of vehicles assembled overseas by Japanese carmakers dropped 5.3 percent to 1,368 units for the third consecutive month of decline, the association said.

Volkswagen models remained the top-selling brand in August, marking a 49.7 percent gain in sales from a year earlier to 3,569 units, pushing its share of Japan’s import market to 19.7 percent.

Mercedes-Benz came in second with sales of 3,257 units, down 8.3 percent, followed by BMW with sales of 2,398 units, up 18.2 percent, leaving Mercedes-Benz with a 17.9 percent share of the import market and BMW 13.2 percent.

Accelerated gestation

Mazda Motor Corp. will shorten the new car development period by four months to 14 months in three years.

The Japanese automaker announced the plan Tuesday, saying it will be the result of a 17.5 billion yen investment it will be making in computer-related equipment over the four years beginning in fiscal 2000.

Mazda will also be able to cut production costs for test vehicles by 30 percent, Mazda officials said.

Mazda, which has used computers for new automobile development since 1996, will begin computer simulations of test collisions in the current fiscal year, they said.

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