Volkswagen will reintroduce diesel cars to Japan almost 40 years after it last sold them in the country in a bid to more than double total sales to 110,000 units by 2018 with a dealer network expanded from 250 to 330.

The Nikkei business daily reported that the company will also introduce the up! supermini next month, a year after its European debut. Japan will be the first Asian market to get the car.

Diesel cars could be back in showrooms as early as 2014 as Volkswagen looks to capitalise on renewed interest in fuel economy. Hardly any diesel cars have been sold in Japan since the late 1990s because of a lack of demand.

Last year VW sold 50,600 cars in Japan, an increase of 8.4% over 2010, making it the best selling importer, and said it expects sales to top 60,000 this year.

Overall sales of foreign made cars have risen 22% in the first eight months of the year to top 152,000, the Nikkei reported.