• Kyodo


Sales of new imported vehicles in Japan grew 2.1 percent in 2017 from the previous year to the highest figure in two decades, with relatively expensive cars gaining popularity amid the country’s recovering economy, an industry body said Thursday.

The figure for 2017, which includes imported cars, trucks and buses made abroad by Japanese automakers, stood at 351,020 units.

Of them, sales of foreign-brand vehicles rose 3.7 percent to 306,088 units in the year, the second highest record since comparable data became available in 1988. The record-high figure of 324,973 units was recorded in 1996, according to the Japan Automobile Importers Association.

Sales of Japanese-brand vehicles dropped 7.5 percent to 44,932 units.

Pressured by an economic downturn, sales of foreign-brand vehicles halved in 2009 from the peak in 1996 but the figure is gradually picking up after automakers introduced fuel-efficient models and more affordable compact cars.

By brand, Mercedes-Benz kept the top spot for the third straight year by selling 68,221 units, up 1.2 percent, securing a market share of 19.44 percent. BMW ranked second with 52,527 units, up 3.9 percent for a share of 14.96 percent, followed by Volkswagen with 49,040 units, up 3.8 percent for a share of 13.97 percent.

Among Japanese brands, Toyota sales rose 7.4 percent to 17,057 units while those of Nissan fell 16.5 percent to 15,211 units, according to the association.

In December alone, sales of new imported vehicles rose 5.5 percent to 35,334 units from a year earlier, with sales of foreign-brand vehicles increasing 4.6 percent to 31,493 units and those of Japanese-brand vehicles jumping 13.4 percent to 3,841 units.

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