Sales of imported cars, including those made overseas by Japanese automakers, grew 5.5% in May from a year before to 20,606 units, snapping a five-month decline, an industry body told Kyodo News on Monday.

Sales of foreign-brand imported cars alone in the month soared 13.2% to 19,246 units, extending their winning streak to a fourth consecutive month, the Japan Automobile Importers Association reportedly said.

Kyodo News said association spokesman Yasuhiko Yokota attributed the May rebound in the overall sales mainly to a 30.5% surge in the sales of BMW vehicles, helped by strong popularity of the restyled 3 series' sedans.

Yokota reportedly also attributed the rebound to strong sales of Mercedes-Benz's new CLS-class, A-class and E-class sedans, as well as sales campaigns by various automakers offering low-interest auto loans prior to June's bonus season in Japan.

Still, the cumulative sales of overall imported vehicles - foreign-brand and Japanese-made - in the first five months this year slipped 3.4% to 106,876 units, the report said.

Yokota told Kyodo News the decline was mainly due to falling sales of Toyota's Avensis sedans and station wagons in recent months, which the automaker has been importing from its British factories since autumn 2003.

Volkswagen reportedly beat Mercedes-Benz to become the top-selling brand in May on the strength of its restyled Golf GTi hatchback - Volkswagen accounted for 19.99% of the import car market, selling 4,119 units, up 8.6% over the previous year.

The news agency said Mercedes-Benz fell to second place with a market share of 17.47% as sales rose 14.2% sales to 3,600 units, BMW retained third place with a 30.5% rise in sales to 3,679 units, jacking up its market share to 17.85%, Volvo was fourth with a share of 5.83% with sales of 1,201 units, up 16.8%, and Audi ranked fifth with a 5.49% share and sales of 1,131 units, up 26.2%.