• Kyodo News

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Sales of imported motor vehicles, including those made at Japanese carmakers’ overseas plants, dived 26.8 percent in March from the year before to 23,218 units, an industry body said Monday.

The number represents the 11th consecutive monthly fall, the Japan Automobile Importers Association said.

Of the total, sales of foreign-brand vehicles plunged 26.7 percent to 20,820 units and those of Japanese-brand vehicles plummeted 27.6 percent to 2,398 units, it said.

The rate of overall sales shrinkage softened from 33.9 percent for the previous month, which had marked the fourth straight month of falls of more than 30 percent.

“Dealers, which took hits from last year’s gas price spikes, took an extra blow from a sharp fall in consumer confidence since last fall,” an association official said in reference to the impact on consumer psychology of the global economic downturn aggravated by the credit market turmoil induced by the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. on Sept. 15.

By brand, Volkswagen retained first place, with sales of 5,311 units and a market share of 22.9 percent, although the sales figure represented a 29.3 percent fall. Mercedes-Benz was in second place with sales of 4,223 units, down 23.2 percent.

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