Some 5.85 million new vehicles are expected to be sold in Japan in the 2003 business year, up 0.4 percent from the forecast for 2002, the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association said Thursday.

JAMA attributed the marginal improvement to an anticipated recovery in corporate performance and the debut of new models.

The impact of the U.S.-led war on Iraq is not included in the association’s estimates, but carmakers can reach that goal if the war ends quickly, JAMA Chairman Yoshihide Munekuni said.

According to the outlook for fiscal 2003, car sales will increase 0.9 percent from the previous year to 4.53 million units. Sales of minicars, which come with engine displacements of less than 660cc, are expected to rise 1.5 percent to 1.32 million units.

Overall truck sales are forecast to slide 1.2 percent to 1.3 million units.

But sales of trucks with engine displacements greater than 2,000cc are expected to grow 17.3 percent to 95,000 units, JAMA said, pointing to expectations that many truck users will replace older models to clear tougher exhaust regulations on diesel vehicles.

Sales of motorcycles are expected to increase 2.1 percent to 834,000 units. because low-price scooters are attracting more customers, JAMA said.

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