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Nissan Motor Co. has taken the unusual step of agreeing to have its affiliated car dealers sell auto insurance provided exclusively by Sompo Japan Insurance Inc. and Millea Holdings Inc., according to company sources.

Car dealers in Japan usually offer auto insurance from several companies.

Under the agreement, the two nonlife insurance groups and Nissan will jointly develop auto insurance products that combine new customized services. The new products will be sold under the Nissan brand at its dealerships, the sources said.

Sales at dealerships owned by Nissan will begin in June and sales by independent dealers will start in November, the sources said.

The policies feature free towing for car trouble and free repairs for minor jobs, including window damage.

The move is designed to help Nissan dealers raise commission income from the sale of auto insurance and give them attractive policies to help boost car sales, they said.

The agreement also calls on Nissan to set up a call center for auto insurance services at a financial affiliate.

Tokio Marine & Fire Insurance Co. and Nichido Fire & Marine Insurance Co., under Millea Holdings, and Sompo Japan have a combined 80 percent share in insurance product sales at Nissan dealerships.

Car, bus sales up 5%

Domestic sales of new cars, trucks and buses in February rose 5.1 percent from the same month last year to 367,505 units, up for the sixth straight month, the Japan Automobile Dealers Association said Monday.

By category, sales of cars increased 9.2 percent from a year earlier to 296,255 units, up for the seventh consecutive month.

Sales of cars with engine displacements of more than 2,000cc rose 9.7 percent to 62,782 units, up for the second consecutive month, thanks to launches of new models, including Nissan Motor Co.’s Teana luxury sedan, association officials said.

Sales of small cars with engine displacements between 661cc and 2,000cc jumped 9 percent to 233,473 units, up for the 11th straight month, they said.

Sales of trucks with a carrying capacity of more than 3 tons surged 30.7 percent to 6,893, up for the second consecutive month, due partly to truck operators’ efforts to replace old ones with new ones that can clear stricter regulations on diesel exhaust emissions, association officials said. The new regulations will take effect in October.

But sales of smaller trucks fell 12.6 percent to 62,600 units, down for the 22nd straight month.

Bus sales increased 23.3 percent to 1,757 units, up for the fourth consecutive month.

By manufacturer, Suzuki Motor Corp. increased sales by 53.6 percent to 6,156 units, thanks to thriving sales of the Swift compact’s low-price version, a Suzuki official said.

Truck makers Hino Motors Ltd. and Isuzu Motors Ltd. also saw sales rise by more than 28 percent.

On the other hand, Honda Motor Co. saw sales fall by 18.7 percent in February from a year earlier to 41,829 units, down for the second straight month, the association said.

Although Honda marked record sales in February 2002 by launching new models, including the Fit, it has so far failed to produce hit models, a Honda official said.

Minivehicle sales off

Domestic sales of new minivehicles in February fell 5.3 percent from the same month last year to 158,587 units, down for the fifth straight month, the Japan Minivehicles Association said Monday.

The association attributed the sluggishness to launches of attractive compact models, including Mitsubishi Motors Corp.’s Colt and Nissan Motor Co.’s redesigned March.

Standard minicar sales dropped 3.9 percent to 117,874 units, down for the fifth consecutive month, while minivehicles for commercial purposes decreased 9 percent to 40,713 units.

Minivehicles are defined as motor vehicles with engine displacements of not more than 660cc.

By maker, Suzuki Motor Corp., Daihatsu Motor Co. and Mazda Motor Corp. slightly increased sales in February. But Honda Motor Co. saw sales fall by 28.7 percent to 19,454 units and MMC’s sales dropped by 19.7 percent to 20,078 units.

The association predicts that domestic minivehicle sales in the business year through March will be below the sales volume in fiscal 2001 of 1.84 million units.

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