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March 4, 2003

JAPAN: Sales increase 5.1% in February, sixth monthly gain on trot

Nissan and Mitsubishi led a 5.1% increase in car sales in Japan last month, the sixth consecutive monthly gain, as carmakers lured more customers to their showrooms with new models, Bloomberg News reported. Japanese car makers sold 367,505 units at home last month, the Japan Automobile Dealers Association said in a press release cited by Bloomberg. Sales of Nissan, Japan's third-biggest automaker, jumped 14% to 77,966 units, while Mitsubishi reported an 18% surge to 18,764 units.

By bcusack

Nissan and Mitsubishi led a 5.1% increase in car sales in Japan last month, the sixth consecutive monthly gain, as carmakers lured more customers to their showrooms with new models, Bloomberg News reported.

Japanese car makers sold 367,505 units at home last month, the Japan Automobile Dealers Association said in a press release cited by Bloomberg . Sales of Nissan, Japan’s third-biggest automaker, jumped 14% to 77,966 units, while Mitsubishi reported an 18% surge to 18,764 units.

Bloomberg News cautioned that recent car sales gains in Japan don’t necessarily signal a recovery in the market, as unemployment levels are at a record high and employee bonus payments have been falling, analysts said. Competition is heating up as customers demand more fuel efficient and spacious vehicles for less money.

“The trend in domestic sales, which favors small cars over more profitable, larger cars, won’t change drastically regardless of what models automakers release,” Norihiko Kamada, who helps manage $US1.2 billion in funds for Chuo Mitsui Asset Management , told Bloomberg . “The strongest segment in the Japanese auto market will probably be compact cars this year.”

Sales of compact cars rose 9% in February, to 233,473 units, the statement said, according to Bloomberg . Compact cars have made up the fastest- growing segment of the country’s vehicle market over the past year.

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