• Staff report

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Domestic sales of new cars, trucks and buses in the first half of 2003 rose 3.7 percent from the same period last year to 2.09 million vehicles, the first year-on-year increase in two years, the Japan Automobile Dealers Association said Tuesday.

The brisk sales are expected to continue in the second half. Sales of cars will be pushed by new models and those of large trucks by new regulations.

In June alone, domestic vehicle sales rose 2.6 percent from the same month last year to 342,697 units, up for the second straight month, thanks to increased sales of trucks and larger cars, the association said.

During the January-June period, sales of cars with engine displacements of 2,001cc or more jumped 9.3 percent to 364,398 units, the first year-on-year increase in three years.

Sales of smaller cars, with engine displacements between 661cc and 2,000cc, also rose 4.1 percent to 1.3 million units, up for the third straight year.

Sales of new trucks with a load capacity of 3 tons or more surged 34 percent in the first half of 2003 to 48,764 units, marking the first year-on-year increase in six years.

The surge is being stoked by tougher emission regulations on diesel-powered vehicles that will take effect in October.

But sales of smaller trucks fell 5.3 percent to 367,008 units, down for the second consecutive year, as the sluggish economy continued to discourage owners to buy new ones, an association official said.

Bus sales jumped 20.8 percent to 10,772 units.

By maker, Daihatsu Motor Co., Honda Motor Co., and Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. saw sales slump in the period, while other Japanese carmakers saw their performance improve over the pervious year.

Minivehicle sales fall

Domestic sales of new minivehicles in the first half of 2003 fell 3.5 percent from the same period last year to 936,669, down for the third straight year, the Japan Mini Vehicles Association said Tuesday.

The association attributed the decline to saturation and aging models, including the Mitsubishi eK Wagon.

Minivehicles are defined as vehicles with engine displacements of up to 660cc.

In June alone, minivehicle sales tumbled 7.9 percent from the same month last year to 154,708 units, down for the third consecutive month, according to the association.

During the January-June period, sales of minicars for private use dropped 3.8 percent from a year earlier to 674,938 units, the first year-on-year decrease in two years.

Minivehicles for commercial use declined 3 percent to 261,731 units, falling for the fourth consecutive year.

By maker, Suzuki Motor Corp., Daihatsu Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. all saw sale increase, while other carmakers saw sales decline from the previous year.

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