* See the Top 30 best-selling cars, kei cars and Top 13 local brands by clicking on the title *
November overall new car sales in Japan are down a depressing 9% year-on-year to to 416,139 units, the fifth consecutive month of decline. Most of the decrease comes from the regular sized vehicles down 13%, the biggest drop since April immediately following the sales tax increase. The auto market doesn’t entirely reflect the state of Japan’s economy though as 3 of the top 4 department store chains posted increases this month. As we saw from the record setting months last year at this time, big purchases like cars were probably disproportionately inflated in anticipation of the tax increase, so this decline is understandable.
Imports are surprisingly down only 2% to 23,421 deliveries as do Kei cars to 176,932 units. November marked a big milestone for the Kei market as YTD sales have surpassed 2 million for only the third time in history (after 2006 and 2013). With YOY sales ahead 7%, 2014 should be a new all-time high for the kei market both volume- and share-wise. Suzuki and Mazda are the only manufacturers in positive this month. The former due to the success of the Hustler Kei car, and the latter owing to the new Demio up a further 6 spots on October and 254% year-on-year to #4 with 8,890 sales – its highest ranking since July 2011 when it placed #3 in the wake of the Tohoku earthquake which impacted Toyota the most and Hiroshima-based Mazda probably the least. The jump is due to the launch of the diesel variant one month after the petrol models: according to Mazda about 60% of the orders have been for the diesel.
Talking about diesel, as the French government announced it would like to phase it out, Mazda celebrated 100,000 cars sold at home with the Skyactiv-D diesel engine. Since its introduction in February 2012 Mazda has sold 100,325 diesel powered cars in Japan (through August 2014). Of the models available with the diesel engine this accounts to a take rate of approximately 60%. Broken down by model (with their respective diesel take rates) this included 72,182 CX-5’s (76%), 23,524 Atenzas (69%), and 4619 Axelas (14%).
In other model news, once again we discover that the Lexus NX should have placed in the October Top 30 at #24 with 2,026 registrations, it is unclear why Toyota would not communicate these results in time, given they are just formidable, putting the NX on track to surpass both the CT and IS as the brand’s best-selling nameplate at home YTD. The Toyota Aqua remains first with sales down just 4%, but below the drops are steep: the Prius is down 37% and reclaims the 2nd spot off the Honda Fit down 58%. The Toyota Harrier once again beats its ranking record, lifting it to #7 thanks to 6,741 sales.
Toyota has turned its hugely popular compact minivan twins Noah and Voxy into triplets. Seeing demand for a more luxurious minivan but smaller than the Alphard, Toyota revised the interior and slapped on a Crown-esque grill and voilà… the all “new” Esquire! The recipe seems to have worked as the Esquire, after going on sale on October 29, debuts at #11 and 5,316 units and seems to have left its two twins unaffected: the Voxy is up 78% year-on-year to #8 and 6,828 sales and the Noah is up 80% to #12 and 4,845 units. All-in-all, the triplets add up to a huge 16,989 sales which would place this model if it had only one name… in pole position!
Over on the Kei cars chart, Daihatsu aims to introduce a new sub-class of “ultra space” wagon with its new Wake model, which lands squarely (pun intended) at # 10. While not necessarily a direct competitor to the Suzuki Hustler, its timing and versatile interior (think mini Honda Element) that targets many of the same outdoor active-lifestyle consumers has created a new rivalry between these models and top two Kei manufacturers. The Wake went on sale on November 10 and likely cannibalised some sales from the Tanto that falls to #2 this month. This slip let the WagonR and Suzuki itself to grab the Kei crown this month.
Previous month: Japan October 2014: Toyota Harrier hits all-time record ranking
One year ago (cars): Japan November 2013: Honda Fit #1 again, Odyssey at highest in 9 years
One year ago (Kei cars): Japan Kei cars November 2013: Honda N-WGN lands
Full November 2014 Top 30 models, Kei cars and Top 13 local brands Ranking Tables below.