Japan’s automobile production in the first half of the year expanded 3.4 percent from a year earlier to 5,484,421 vehicles, as both domestic shipments and exports grew, an industry body said in a preliminary report released Friday.

Production of cars went up 3.5 percent to 4,562,849 vehicles, while trucks rose 1.9 percent to 883,684 and buses 21.5 percent to 37,888, said the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association.

Honda Motor Co. had the largest percentage growth, at 7.9 percent, followed by 7.3 percent for Nissan Motor Co., 6.2 percent for Daihatsu Motor Co. and 5.5 percent for Toyota Motor Corp.

Mitsubishi Motors Corp., struggling in the aftermath of several vehicle defect coverups, saw a 14.1 percent fall.

Domestic automobile shipments in the first half grew 2.0 percent from a year earlier to 3,102,860 vehicles, while exports rose 2.8 percent to 2,458,036 units.

In June alone, production increased 1.7 percent to 951,206 vehicles, while domestic shipments rose 7.4 percent to 517,439 units and exports 5.4 percent to 442,840 units.

Infiniti push starts

Nissan Motor Co. started selling its highly profitable Infiniti series in South Korea on Friday as part of the global expansion of the luxury brand, the automaker said.

The initial Infiniti lineup includes the new Infiniti M45 and M35 sport sedans, the award-winning G35 sedan and G35 coupe, and the flagship Q45 luxury performance sedan.

The Infiniti FX45 and FX35 luxury crossover sport utility vehicles will join the lineup in September, Nissan said.

Infiniti plans to sell 700 units in the second half of the year and 2,000 units in 2006 to eventually catch 10 percent of South Korea’s annual 50,000-strong import car market by 2010.

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