Finnish new car sales will leap nearly 20% from last year to 140,000 in 2003 thanks to changes which have slashed about 10% off the prices of new cars, the sector's information centre said on Thursday, according to Reuters.

The report, citing Matti Porho, head of the Finnish automobile lobby AKL, said the government eased taxation of new cars - the second highest in the European Union after Denmark - earlier this year, prompting thousands of Finns who had been waiting for such a move to go shopping.

Last year, Reuters said, Finns bought 117,000 new cars and the last time car sales reached nearly 140,000 vehicles was in 1990, the Finnish Information Centre of Automobile Sector told the news agency in a statement, but did not give forecasts for individual brands.

Reuters said that, in the first seven months of the year, Toyota topped the list of new car registrations in Finland with a 15.4% market share, followed by Volkswagen with 12.1% and Ford with 8.5%, according to the Finnish Vehicle Administration.

"The increase of sales has boosted the employment outlook of the automobile sector and at least 700 new jobs will be created in the sector this year," Porho told Reuters.

The increased number of new cars also would bring down the average age of vehicles on Finnish roads - 10.5 years and the highest in the European Union, compared with 7.5 years in Germany - the centre said, according to Reuters.