TOKYO - In Japan's year of the minivehicle, segment-leader Suzuki Motor Corp. lost ground to its rivals.
Sales have soared since last October, when makers unleashed a flurry of new models to take advantage of a change in size regulations for minivehicles. In Japan, minis are cars and trucks with engines smaller than 660cc.
In those 12 months, minivehicle sales surged 27.6 percent, to 1,881,067, according to the Japan Mini Vehicles Association. By contrast, sales of all other vehicles fell 11.8 percent, according the Japan Automobile Dealers Association.
Amid the gains, Suzuki's share of the minivehicle market slipped 1.9 percentage points, to 30.7 percent.
Meanwhile, Honda Motor Co.'s market share rose 0.8 points to 15.2 percent, the largest gain of all makers.
Daihatsu Motor Co., the No. 2 mini maker, pushed its market share up 0.6 point to 26.3 percent. Toyota Motor Corp. owns 52 percent of Daihatsu.
Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., maker of Subaru cars, each raised its share by 0.4 point, to 15.3 percent and 9.7 percent, respectively.
Mazda Motor Corp., which sells minis built by Suzuki, lost 0.2 point of market share, to 2.4 percent.
In an effort to make up for lost ground, Suzuki in mid-October introduced freshened versions of its Alto, Wagon R, Kei and Jimny minivehicles, all of which were launched as all-new models in October 1998.