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More bad news for Detroit

US automakers managed to sell only three subcompact cars in Japan last month, the Japan Automobile Importers Association said Tuesday.

This poor performance prompted Japanese dealers affiliated with General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler to stop importing the 1982-model subcompact cars, Japanese auto industry sources said. The weak sales for American subcompacts was consistent with a trend that has seen US car exports to Japan decline for the past several months.

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Between January and August, the association said, only 60 US-made subcompact cars were sold in Japan, down 82.8 percent from the same period last year.

Sales of all foreign makes of passenger cars in August were 2,701 units, down 2.9 percent from the previous year.

Sources attributed the poor sales of US-made subcompact passenger cars to their inability to compete with Japanese models in price, fuel, and efficiency.

Cars from West Germany, Britain, France, Italy, and Sweden were selling either above or at the same level as last year.

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