Sales of imported motor vehicles fell 1.6 percent in fiscal 2001 from the previous year to 272,560 units after rising in fiscal 2000 for the first time in four years, the Japan Automobile Importers Association said Thursday.

The figure for the year that ended Sunday covers 258,684 vehicles from foreign makers, up 0.2 percent, and 13,876 Japanese vehicles manufactured overseas, down 26 percent, the association said.

By brand, Volkswagen took the largest share of Japan’s import market for the reporting year — 22.10 percent — by selling 60,226 units, down 1.4 percent from the previous year. Mercedes-Benz came second with an 18.72 percent share and sales of 51,020 units, down 3.6 percent, while BMW placed third at 13.09 percent with 35,691 units, down 0.8 percent.

The dip in Japanese brand imports from abroad was mainly due to sharp falls in imports of Toyota Motor Corp.’s Pronard sedan in fiscal 2001, an association spokesman said.

Sales of the sedan, imported from the United States, totaled 1,410 units in fiscal 2001, down sharply from 5,466 units in fiscal 2000, the association said.

In March alone, sales of imported vehicles dropped 2.8 percent from a year earlier to 35,294 units, down for the seventh consecutive month, the association said.

The corresponding figures for the January-March period totaled 70,423 units, down 3.7 percent from a year earlier.

Sales of vehicles manufactured by foreign automakers dropped 2.9 percent in March to 33,444 units, while those made at Japanese automakers’ overseas factories dipped 0.4 percent to 1,850 units.

For the January-March quarter, sales of foreign makers’ vehicles came to 66,498 units, down 3.8 percent, and those by Japanese automakers totaled 3,925 units, down 3.1 percent.

Corolla still No. 1

Toyota Motor Corp.’s Corolla was the top-selling car in Japan in the year that ended Sunday, the Japan Automobile Dealers Association said Thursday.

Sales of the Corolla compact, which took the top spot for the second year in a row, rose 24.2 percent from the previous year to 231,651 units, the association said.

In second place was Honda Motor Co.’s Fit compact car, launched in June. Third was Toyota’s Vitz compact, which was No. 2 the year before.

Toyota’s cars accounted for five of the top 10 best sellers. Its Estima and Ipsum minivans ranked fourth and eighth, and the Crown was seventh.

Honda’s Step WGN ranked fifth and its Stream minivan sixth, while Nissan Motor Co.’s Cube and March compact cars came ninth and 10th.

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