TOKYO -- Japan's domestic auto market is expected to improve only modestly next year.
The implication of a weak domestic market: Japanese carmakers again will look to exports for growth.
Total sales of imported cars in 2006 will drop 2.2 percent to 267,000, the Japan Automobile Importers Association predicts.
The total is pulled down by falling sales of reverse imports. Those are vehicles built at Japanese carmakers' overseas plants and shipped to Japan. So-called "pure" imports will rise 2 percent to 250,000, the association predicts.
The total Japanese market will edge up 0.5 percent to 5.9 million, the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association forecasts.
Sales of minivehicles with engines of 660cc or smaller will be flat at 1.9 million, JAMA says. Sales of larger vehicles will rise 0.8 percent to 4.0 million.