Japan Auto Sales Up for First Time in 28 Months

New models helped sales

As manufacturers released new models in an effort to reinvigorate a shrinking domestic market, Japan's automobile sales rose for the first time in 28 months in October, an industry group said. Sales increased 2% to 269,221 vehicles in October from a year earlier as Japanese automakers rushed to release new models ahead of the Tokyo Motor Show which opened last month, the Automobile Dealers Association said.

The number of cars -- excluding mini-vehicles -- sold in October rose 5.5% to 234,029, the association said. Sales of trucks fell 16.7% to 34,172 and sales of buses fell 2% to 1,020.

Toyota Motor Corp. launched four new models between September and October, while Honda Motor Co. released its fully remodeled Fit compact cars and Nissan Motor Co. put its Skyline Coupe sports model on the market.

The association also said consumers are increasingly reluctant to make major purchases such as new cars, preferring to spend their money on digital consumer goods such as flat TVs and cellphones.

An aging population is also weighing on sales, while owners now keep their cars for longer than they used to, weakening demand for replacements.

Environmental concerns are stirring interest in smaller vehicles but even so demand for mini-vehicles slumped 7.3% in October to 136,994, falling for a seventh straight month, the Japan Mini-Vehicle Association reported.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2007

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