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Business

Prius keeps lead in Japan's scandal-hit car market

Honda's N Box was Japan's second-best-selling new car in May.

OSAKA -- Toyota Motor's Prius hybrid was once again ahead of the pack this May in a domestic market shaken up by revelations that competing automakers had cheated in fuel economy testing.

The Prius ranked No. 1 for a sixth consecutive month, shows sales data released Monday by the Japan Automobile Dealers Association and the Japan Light Motor Vehicle and Motorcycle Association. Amid solid demand for the redesigned version launched late last year, May sales jumped 2.5-fold on the year to 21,527 vehicles.

Honda Motor's N Box, the top selling minivehicle for a third straight month, climbed a notch from April to second place in the overall ranking. Sales rose 10.5% to 11,487 units.

Daihatsu Motor's Tanto minicar came in third overall, with sales surging 29.9% to 11,283.

May was the first full month to reflect the impact of Mitsubishi Motors' falsification of fuel economy data, a scandal that came to light April 20.

The company immediately suspended production and sales of four models: two eK series minicars sold under its own label, and two Dayz series minivehicles built for Nissan Motor. Sales of the models amounted to zero in May.

While Mitsubishi Motors plans to draw up measures as early as midmonth to prevent a recurrence of the scandal, when it will resume sales of the affected minicars is unclear.

Suzuki Motor also had a tough month after admitting May 18 that it had used an unapproved method in fuel economy testing. Sales of its Alto and Spacia minicars dropped 9.8% and 17% on the year. "The fuel economy scandal affected sales in no small part," an official said.

Overall sales of minivehicles fell 14.3% short of a year earlier in May. Prolonged scandals could further add to the troubles of manufacturers still smarting from an April 2015 minivehicle tax hike.

(Nikkei)

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