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The new chairman of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association said Thursday he will work to promote fuel cells and other technologies less harmful to the environment than the combustion engine.

Yoshihide Munekuni, also chairman of Honda Motor Co., called on the government to provide infrastructure and promote deregulation necessary for green vehicles to become a success.

“The global competition of automobiles is becoming increasingly tough,” Munekuni said, “and to continue being competitive, Japanese car manufacturers need to work hard and exceed in technologies, especially those related to safety and the environment.

“It’s important that JAMA make rules necessary to encourage and support carmakers toward this kind of development.”

At his first news conference in Tokyo as JAMA chairman, Munekuni said the group will continue to push the government to reassess “heavy” taxes imposed on car owners, adding that reducing such burdens will increase demand for automobiles.

Munekuni, who will lead the auto industry group for two years, also said he expects the sluggish domestic economy to improve later in the year, while corporate and personal spending will continue to be flat.

Domestic car sales during the first four months of this year have been lower than last year, but Munekuni said he predicts total sales for the year to reach the expected 5.88 million units.

When asked about the rise of Japanese car sales in the North American market, Munekuni said he does not think the current situation will cause friction between American and Japanese automakers, as demand in the American market is expected to increase more than previously forecast.

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