• The Associated Press

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Sales of imported automobiles logged a year-on-year slide of 0.2 percent in May, coming in at 20,506 vehicles.

The Japan Automobile Importers Association said Thursday that Japanese consumers turned to smaller and cheaper domestic models amid the economic slump. The total included 20,221 cars, 282 trucks and three buses.

Combined sales in May 2002 stood at 20,541 vehicles. Last month’s decline followed an 8.3 percent drop in April, which succeeded five months of increase.

Japan is still struggling to pull out of an economic slowdown that has lasted more than a decade.

Imports of cars made by foreign manufacturers slid 8.7 percent to 17,601 units, while imports of those with Japanese badges — including Honda Motor Co.’s Fit Aria and Toyota Motor Corp.’s Voltz — soared to 2,620 units from 959.

German automakers filled the top three spots in Japan’s import car market in the reporting month. Volkswagen was in pole position, at 4,126 vehicles, down 0.2 percent from a year ago. The company controlled 20.12 percent of the import market in May.

Mercedes was second, at 3,363 cars, up 6.2 percent for a market share of 16.4 percent. BMW sold 2,444 vehicles, down 11 percent for a share of 11.92 percent.

Chrysler was the top-selling U.S. make, logging sales of 499 vehicles, down 16.4 percent for a 2.43 percent market share. Ford sold 444 vehicles, up 7.8 percent, while Chevrolet logged sales of 287 vehicles, down 52.2 percent.

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