New imported vehicle sales in Japan rose 8.9% year on year in January, the third straight month of year-on-year gain due to the popularity of some recently released models and a sales dive in January 2009, an industry body said on Thursday.

Sales for the latest reporting month totaled 9,710 units, including vehicles produced overseas and imported by Japanese carmakers, the Japan Automobile Importers Association said.

An association spokesman told Kyodo News January sales rose ''partly because sales in January 2009 had plunged on the fallout from the global financial crisis,'' triggered by the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008.

Of the total, foreign-brand vehicles amounted to 8,477 units, up 10.7%, and Japanese-brand vehicles came to 1,233 units, down 2.0%, the association said.

By brand, Volkswagen overtook BMW to seize the top spot with sales of 2,659 units, up a steep 42.0%, rising from second place in December. Mercedes-Benz advanced to second place from third, registering sales of 1,522 units, up 7.5%. BMW came third with sales of 1,008 units, down 13.5%.