TOKYO -- Japan's new-vehicle sales in May edged up 0.2 percent over a year earlier, halting an eight-month streak of declines.
The gain, to 421,282, was supported by stronger sales of minivehicles and compact cars, which more than offset declining sales of regular-sized cars and trucks.
Sales rose 3.8 percent for minivehicles - cars and trucks with engines smaller than 660cc - and 11.8 percent for compact cars with engines between 1.0 and 2.0 liters. Sales of imported vehicles rose 1.2 percent.
Meanwhile, sales slid 12.7 percent for regular-sized cars with engines of more than 2.0 liters, 25.4 percent for light trucks and 21.1 percent for medium- and heavy-duty trucks.
That signaled a continuation of two trends: weak corporate vehicle demand, and a preference among retail shoppers for less expensive models.
Among the Big 5 Japanese automakers, Honda Motor Co. continued to swim against the current with an 18.3 percent rise. Honda sales have been buoyed by the new Fit subcompact, which was ranked No. 1 among Japan's top 10 sellers for a second consecutive month with sales of 20,378.
That was well ahead of the Toyota Corolla at No. 2 with sales of 14,954.
Nissan Motor Co., up 16.1 percent, posted the industry's second-biggest gain. Its revamped March compact car seeks to cut into the Fit's success.
The March came in at the third place on the top 10 list with sales of 13,888.
Nissan also has been aggressive in the minivan race, with a fully redesigned Elgrand launched on May 21.
Although the Toyota ist subcompact, which debuted on May 8, has gotten off to a good start, Toyota's total sales still declined 3.7 percent, dragged down by lackluster sedan sales.
Sales also declined 10.1 percent at Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and 15.6 percent at Mazda Motors Corp. The Mazda Atenza, known as the 6 in overseas markets, gained momentum with sales of 900 in the few days after it was launched on May 20, putting it on a pace well above its monthly sales target of 1,000.
Among foreign carmakers, sales of General Motors vehicles surged 29.9 percent, supported by the Japanese-made Chevrolet Cruze compact car.
Ford Motor Co.'s group sales tumbled 12.2 percent as weaker Ford and Land Rover sales more than offset Jaguar's robust gains. DaimlerChrysler also slid 18.4 percent partly because of a tumble by its flagship Mercedes brand.