• Kyodo

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As consumers increasingly looked for lower costs in maintaining vehicles following last April’s consumption tax hike, Daihatsu Motor Co.’s Tanto minicar became Japan’s best-selling vehicle last year, industry bodies’ data showed Thursday.

The Tanto, first introduced in 2003 and featuring a high body, marked sales of 234,456 units in 2014, up 62.1 percent from the previous year, according to the Japan Light Motor Vehicle and Motorcycle Association. Minicars have an engine of up to 660 cc.

Toyota Motor Corp.’s Aqua hybrid car, the best seller in 2013, ranked second with sales of 233,209 vehicles, down 11.1 percent, said the Japan Automobile Dealers Association.

Daihatsu, a Toyota subsidiary, won the annual best-selling title for the first time, with the Tanto becoming the first minicar to top the rankings since Suzuki Motor Corp.’s Wagon R in 2008.A total of seven minivehicles entered the top 10 list, highlighting the trend of more consumers turning to such vehicles for lower prices and higher fuel efficiency.

Japanese carmakers have been struggling with lower sales since the government raised the consumption tax rate to 8 percent from 5 percent on April 1. They also slowed production.

This has led many automakers to renovate their minivehicles in hopes of attracting new customers and offsetting declining sales of larger cars.

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