TOKYO - Japan's June vehicle sales edged up 0.6 percent to 511,588.
As has been true all year, the overall market was pulled between strong sales of minivehicles, those with engines smaller than 660cc, and weak sales of everything else.
Sales of minivehicles jumped 29.2 percent to 165,466, the Japan Mini Vehicles Association said.
Minivehicle sales have risen every month since October, when new regulations on the cars and trucks allowing them to grow slightly prompted a spate of new model launches.
The Japan Mini Vehicles Association began the year predicting that 1999 sales would total 1.65 million. However, some industry officials now expect sales of 1.8 million or more, well up from 1998's 1.55 million.
Excluding minivehicles, car and truck sales in Japan dived 9.1 percent to 346,122, the Japan Automobile Dealers Association said.
If imports also were excluded, sales fell 10.8 percent.
Sales of import vehicles rose 15.8 percent to 27,768, the Japan Automobile Importers Association said.
The double-digit increase came in comparison with a weak June 1998, when buyers were holding off in anticipation of new models to be launched by Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and others.
In addition, Honda Motor Co.'s imports surged to 1,852 from just 65 in June 1998, on sales of the Ohio-built Inspire, known in the United States as the Accord, and the Canada-built Lagreat minivan, known as the Odyssey in North America.
Even so, sales of so-called pure imports, excluding those of Japanese cars built abroad and brought back to Japan, rose 11.1 percent to 25,319.
When minivehicles are not counted but imports are, sales fell 9.6 percent in the first half of 1999, to 2,071,543. That's the lowest level in 14 years. That put first-half sales on a par with the 2,099,600 sold in the first half of 1986, before Japan's so-called bubble economy began expanding.
Because Nissan Motor Co. does not build minivehicles, it prefers to measure its market share by excluding minivehicles from the total.
Even so, Nissan's market share in the first half dipped to 19.4 percent, on sales of 61,518.
It was Nissan's weakest market share level for the month of June since the dealers association began compiling sales figures in 1968.