Japan market edges higher in August

TOKYO - Japan's new-vehicle sales in August rose 1.6 percent from a year earlier as the introduction of several models helped boost demand. Imports outpaced the overall market with a 4 percent gain, while sales of 660cc minivehicles slumped 6 percent, the 14th consecutive monthly decline.

Honda Motor Co. led Japan's Big 5 automakers with a 19.6 percent increase, largely because of hot demand for the Fit compact, which was launched in June. Fit sales totaled 12,583 units in August, making it Japan's third-highest selling vehicle behind two perennial best sellers, the Suzuki Wagon R minivehicle and the Toyota Corolla.

Toyota Motor Corp. sales rose 4.1 percent and Nissan Motor Co. edged up 0.4 percent, thanks partly to a new version of the Skyline, which was introduced in June.

But sales of Mitsubishi Motors Corp. tumbled 14.2 percent as it continues to wrestle with the aftermath of a recall scandal. The company sold only 1,005 Airtrek sport wagons, well below a monthly sales target of 5,000. The vehicle was launched in June.

Among imports, Volkswagen Group, up 12.6 percent to 4,504 units, stayed the No. 1 brand, slightly ahead of DaimlerChrysler's 4,155 sales. For the year to date, Volkswagen is up 8.7 percent to nearly 47,000 units.

Ford Group sales surged 17.9 percent in the month, but all of the gain was accounted for by Volvo, Land Rover and Jaguar; Ford-brand imports tumbled 55.1 percent from a year earlier.

Japan's Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. began importing the Traviq minivan, from the General Motors plant in Thailand.

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