• Kyodo News

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Domestic sales of new vehicles, including minicars, in 2010 logged their first year-on-year rise in six years thanks to subsidies and tax breaks for environmentally friendly cars, but remained below 5 million units for the second straight year, industry sources said Wednesday.

Overall sales of new vehicles in 2010 rose 7.5 percent from the previous year to 4.96 million units, according to data from the Japan Automobile Dealers Association and the Japan Mini Vehicles Association.

In December alone, however, sales of cars, trucks and buses plunged 28.3 percent from a year earlier to 179,666 vehicles, representing the sharpest drop for the month of December since comparable records were first kept in 1968.

It was the third consecutive month the figure marked its sharpest year-on-year decline. The government’s subsidy program ended in early September, but the tax breaks will continue until spring 2012.

Sales of minivehicles in December dropped 11.4 percent from December 2009 to 108,185 units. The figure was down 10.1 percent from November.

In 2010, sales of cars with 660cc or bigger engines rose 10.6 percent to 3.23 million, while sales of smaller cars rose 2.3 percent to 1.73 million.

Toyota to hire clerks

NAGOYA (Kyodo) Toyota Motor Corp. will hire 400 office workers, prioritizing dispatched ranks already in place, in April as regular employees thanks to a rebound in earnings, after skipping such recruitment in fiscal 2010, officials said Wednesday.

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