TOKYO - Japan's new-vehicle sales rose a mere 0.9 percent in January from a year earlier to 377,232, helped by several recent new-model launches.
Light-vehicle sales also rose 0.9 percent to 371,641.
Sales improved for compact cars with engines between 1.0 and 2.0 liters, and for light-, medium- and heavy-duty trucks.
But weak demand for minivehicles - cars and trucks with engines smaller than 660cc - and for full-sized sedans continued to drag down the overall market.
The minivehicle segment, which had been a pillar of strength for the market during much of 1999 and 2000, continued to retreat in January. Sales fell 2.5 percent from a year earlier to 122,217 units - less than half the peak of 255,135 set in March 2000 - marking the seventh consecutive month of decline.
Paced by the Corolla, Toyota Motor Corp.'s sales rose 2.2 percent to 110,579. Nissan Motor Co. sales edged up 0.1 percent to 50,038, while Honda soared 13.9 percent to 44,904.
On the other hand, Mitsubishi Motors Corp.'s sales tumbled 10.1 percent to 31,634 and Mazda Motor Corp.'s sales fell 1.8 percent to 23,218.
Import sales grew 4 percent. Volkswagen, the top-selling import brand, was up 30.2 percent from a year earlier to 3,823 units. It was followed by Mercedes-Benz, up 1.5 percent to 3,436.
DaimlerChrysler also sold 361 Smart cars in January, the brand's first month on the market.