TOKYO - Japan's vehicle sales dropped 4.4 percent in October.
Sales of minivehicles, those with engines smaller than 660cc, were again the bright spot, rising 2.4 percent to 139,621. Minivehicle sales took off a year ago, after a change in the size regulations governing those cars and trucks.
Some pundits feared October's sales would weaken by comparison with the strong October 1998 total, but that worry proved unfounded.
The latest mini sales gain was led by trucks. After launching a flood of new minicars Oct. 1, 1998, carmakers this past summer began to unveil new minitrucks. Sales of those new truck models are now kicking in.
While minivehicle sales rose, those of compact cars and trucks fell again. However, sales of standard-sized cars rose 5.4 percent, for the first such gain in well over a year. The rise was helped by the launch of the new Toyota Crown. Nonetheless, sales of vehicles excluding minicars and trucks slipped 7.3 percent to 298,889.
October's sales were hurt because there were two fewer selling days than in October 1998. Even so, it was the first October since 1982 for sales of all vehicles, excluding minis, to fall short of 300,000. Total sales were 438,510.
Import sales fell 9.8 percent to 17,634.
Figures for this story were provided by the Japan Mini Vehicles Association, the Japan Automobile Dealers Association and the Japan Automobile Importers Association.