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Toyota Motor Corp.’s Vitz was the best-selling new car in Japan in February, returning to the top spot for the first time since July 2000.

The Japan Automobile Dealers Association said Friday that the remodeled Vitz sold 15,165 units in the month, followed by 13,811 Corollas and 12,678 units of Nissan Motor Co.’s Note.

The new Vitz was released on Feb. 1.

Toyota accounted for half of the 10 best sellers for the month. Nissan had four models on the list, the most for the firm since July 1985.

Nine of the 10 best sellers were subcompacts, with the remaining vehicle being Toyota’s Wish minivan.

Import sales down

Sales of new imported motor vehicles in Japan, including those built by Japanese automakers overseas, dropped 6.3 percent in February from a year earlier to 19,539 units, the Japan Automobile Importers Association said Friday.

While sales of foreign-brand imports rose 0.7 percent to 17,921 units, those of Japanese-made vehicles plummeted 47.2 percent to 1,618 units as sales of Toyota vehicles dived, the association said.

Volkswagen remained the top-selling brand with 4,627 units, up 3.0 percent from a year before, giving it 23.68 percent of the import car market.

BMW overtook Mercedes-Benz, clinching second place with 2,843 units sold, up 11.7 percent, for a 14.55 percent share.

Mercedes-Benz dropped to third place, as sales fell 19.6 percent to 2,828 units, leaving it with 14.47 percent of the market.

Toyota came in fourth place during the month with a share of 5.82 percent, after sales dived 47.0 percent to 1,137 units due to slack sales of the Avensis, which Toyota imported from its British factory in October 2003.

Avensis sales accounted for more than 90 percent of sales of all models Toyota manufactured overseas and imported to Japan in 2004 and in the first two months of this year, according to the association.

Audi rose to fifth place from seventh the previous month, taking a 5.36 percent share of the market with a 19.5 percent surge in sales to 1,047 units.

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