After over two years of falls, sales of new motor vehicles in Japan rose 2% in October from a year earlier to 269,221 units, the first rise in 28 months, an industry body said on Thursday.

The rise in sales, excluding minivehicles with engines of up to 660 cc, was led by passenger cars, especially Toyota models, the Japan Automobile Dealers Association told Kyodo News.

''The introduction of new cars by various automakers is finally having an effect. I hope this momentum will continue,'' an association official was quoted as saying.

Toyota sold 138,916 vehicles, including Lexus brand cars, increasing its market share to 51.6%, the first time it has secured more than half of the market, the association reportedly said. The highest market share it secured previously was 49.4% in November 2006.

Toyota's October figure including that of Lexus brand cars is up 6.5% from the year before, Kyodo News noted.

The report said the introduction of 10 new models in the domestic market since May accounted for Toyota's brisk performance. The automaker had received 8,000 orders for its Mark X Zio (a minivan crossover) in the month since its introduction in late September - about twice the monthly sales target.

Kyodo News said Mazda, Mitsubishi Motors and Subaru maker Fuji Heavy Industries also posted increases in new vehicle sales from a year earlier after they began selling new cars from summer, with Mazda up 4.9% and Mitsubishi up 17.2%.

Sales of passenger cars rose 5.5% to 234,029 units, while truck volume dropped 16.7% to 34,172 units, the association said, according to Kyodo News.

Separately, the Japan Mini Vehicles Association told the news agency that domestic sales of new minivehicles in October dropped 7.3% from the year before to 136,994 units for a seventh consecutive monthly fall.

An association official reportedly remained upbeat, though, telling Kyodo News that annual sales could reach the second highest level after last year's record high because minivehicles remain popular due to their fuel efficiency.