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Japan April 2015: Toyota Esquire and Honda StepWGN shine

May 12th, 2015 No comments

Honda StepWGN Japan April 2015. Picture courtesy response.jpHonda StepWGN

* See the Top 60 All-brands, Top 30 regular vehicles and Top 35 kei cars by clicking on the title *

This Japan update was prepared in collaboration with Stephen Bloom.

The big news in Japan in April is the tax rate hike on kei cars to align them with the rest of the vehicles available in Japan. The current government hopes that this will result with the local carmakers putting more focus and development on standard automobiles that play a much bigger part in the global market than the kei cars that are tailored specifically towards the Japanese domestic market and regulations. This tax increase caused kei sales to drop 22% in April to 121.111 units, the biggest drop since the Great Tohoku Earthquake of March 2011. Reversely, sales of regular cars are up 5% to 198.371 deliveries, the first year-on-year gains in 9 months as the market shows signs of stabilising after last year’s consumption tax increase. Foreign brands fare the best of all, with overall sales up 17% to 15.167 units.

Toyota Esquire Japan April 2015. Picture courtesy response.jpToyota Esquire

Brand-wise, Toyota cements its leadership of its home market with sales up 10% to 101.420 units for a 31.7% market share vs. 27.3% year-to-date, while Suzuki shoots up 3 spots on March to 2nd place overall despite sales down 17% to 49.523 and 15.5% share vs. 12.5% so far in 2015. This way Suzuki overtakes Honda (-23%), Daihatsu (-18%) and Nissan (-38%). Mazda soars 45% on April 2014 but remains 6th above Subaru (+21%), Mitsubishi (-48%) and Isuzu (+34%). Mercedes confirms it is now the favourite foreign manufacturer in Japan, remaining inside the overall Top 10 thanks to sales up 36% to 3.189. It is followed by Volkswagen (-11%), BMW (+49%), Audi (-15%), Mini (+31%), Volvo (+21%) and Porsche (+127%).

Suzuki Hustler Japan April 2015. Picture courtesy response.jpSuzuki Hustler

In the model rankings, the Top 3 are the usual suspects: Toyota Aqua, Prius and Honda Fit, but the big news resides in the minivan segment, starting with the new Toyota Esquire hitting its highest ranking and volume so far at #4 with 7,503 units. Sales of the larger Vellfire and Alphard are up 110% and 141% respectively, following the debut of the latest generation. But the biggest jump this month goes to the new generation Honda StepWGN: after dropping off the chart completely last month lands at #12 after only going on sale on April 24. The StepWGN’s unique “waku waku” gate (a Japanese onomatopoeia for “exciting”) is generating a lot of buzz as it can be opened either as a traditional liftgate or as a fifth door for additional access to the rear seats. Mazda had another solid month with the new Demio up 166% to #10 and the all-new CX-3 climbing to #16 (3.259 sales) just behind its rival, the Honda Vezel at #15 and 3.328, down a harsh 58% on April 2014.

Honda S660 Japan April 2015. Picture courtesy response.jpHonda S660

Over on the kei chart, the Honda N-BOX is again in #1 with 10,218 units, but whereas last month it was the best-selling model overall beating out even the Toyota Aqua, this month due to the kei car tax increase it stands 5,000 units below. However, even with the tax increase kei cars remain an extremely popular and significant segment in the market. If ranked together 6 of the top 10 models and nearly 40% of all vehicles sold in Japan are keis. Faring the best in this kei slump is the Suzuki Hustler coming in at an all-time best ranking of #2 (10.015 sales) while the Daihatsu Move comes in at #3. After sneaking into the chart last month with the registration of some dealer demos, Honda’s new kei roadster, the S660, finally went on sale April 2 and climbs to #14 with 1.413 units sold.

Previous post: Japan 1st Quarter 2015: New Demio and CX-3 keep Mazda up, market down 13%

Previous month: Japan March 2015: Mazda CX-3 up, Honda S660 lands

One year ago (regular vehicles): Japan April 2014: Toyota Voxy on podium, Honda Fit now #1 year-to-date

One year ago (kei cars): Japan Kei cars April 2014: Daihatsu Tanto and Nissan Dayz on top

Full April 2015 Top 60 All-brands, Top 30 regular vehicles and Top 35 kei cars below.

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Categories: Japan

Japan 1st Quarter 2015: Demio & CX-3 keep Mazda up, market at -14%

May 2nd, 2015 No comments

Mazda Demio Japan March 2015. Picture courtesy of autocar.jpThe Mazda Demio is up to #5 among regular vehicles.

* See the Top 60 All-brands, Top 30 regular vehicles, Top 35 kei cars & Top 20 imports *

The first quarter of 2014 saw record sales in Japan due to an impending tax increase, so the 2015 market is not a pretty sight for now: down 14% to 1.578.879 registrations, split between 863.182 regular domestic vehicles (-15%), 635.336 kei cars (-14%) and 80.361 foreign models (-9%). The Top 3 brands fare worse than the market and therefore lose share: Toyota is down 17% to 26.4%, Honda down 20% to 15.1% and Nissan down 19% to 13.1%, now threatened for the last spot on the podium by Daihatsu down 9% to 12.9%. Suuzki rounds up the Top 5 at 11.9% share. Mazda (+0.2%), Isuzu (+2%) and Hino (+3%) are the only domestic brands to gain ground on 2014.

Mercedes C Class Japan March 2015. Picture courtesy of response.jpMercedes is now the best-selling foreign marque in Japan, overtaking Volkswagen.

Over of the foreign marques, Mercedes has just managed a coup d’état: it overtakes fellow German manufacturer Volkswagen thanks to sales up 6% to 18,827 units vs. 18.024 for VW (-22%). Mini (+29%), Renault (+13%), Jeep (+6%) and Porsche (+2%) also shine while Abarth (#29) and DS (#33) are new this year.

Toyota Aqua X-URBAN Japan March 2015. Picture courtesy autoc-one.jpToyota Aqua X-URBAN

In difficulty a year ago and under pressure from the Honda Fit, the Toyota Aqua suddenly takes an almost insurmountable advantage over its competitors in the models ranking thanks to a major facelift in December and the addition of the crossover-styled X-URBAN model: down just 6% to 73,170 deliveries, well above the Toyota Prius (-40%) and Honda Fit (-47%). The Mazda Demio is the best performer in the Top 30 by far thank to the new models: up 116% to #5.

Toyota Esquire Japan December 2014The Toyota Esquire is the most popular all-new nameplate over the period.

The Toyota Voxy (#6), Honda Vezel (#8), Toyota Harrier (#11) and Subaru Legacy (#29) are the only nameplates in progression year-on-year in a Top 30 that welcome a whopping four all-new models: the Toyota Esquire is the most popular at #14, followed by the Subaru Levorg (#20), Honda Grace (#23) and Mazda CX-3 (#27), replacing the CX-5 in the Top 30.

Among Kei cars, the Honda N-BOX reclaims a pole position it last held over FY2013 thanks to the addition of its ‘coupe’ variant the N/and sales up 15% to 69.499, above the Nissan Dayz (-3%), Daihatsu Tanto (-26%) and Daihatsu Move (-5%). The Suzuki Alto is up 23% to #6, the über-cute Suzuki Histler up 54% to #9 and the Daihatsu Wake lands at #11 with 22.796 units. Finally, the Daihatsu Copen (#24) and Honda S660 (#34) bring back the sport in kei this year…

In the foreign models charts, the Mercedes C-Class is the big winner, doubling its sales from a year ago to #2 overall below only the VW Golf (-30%). The Mini (+29%), VW Polo (+22%) and Audi A3 (+13%) also post very solid increases, all inside the Top 6. We welcome two new nameplates inside the Top 8: a brilliant start for both the Mercedes GLA (#7) and BMW 2 Series (#8). All other models in the Top 20 are down on 2014.

Full Q1 2015 Top 60 All-brands, Top 30 regular vehicles, Top 35 kei cars & Top 20 imports vs. Full Q1 2014 figures below.

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Categories: Japan

Japan March 2015: Mazda CX-3 up, Honda S660 lands

April 7th, 2015 No comments

Mazda CX-3 Japan March 2015Mazda CX-3

* See the Top 55 brands, 30 regular cars, Top 36 All-kei cars & Top 15 imports by clicking on the title *

Analysis written in cooperation with Stephen Bloom.

After dropping by 15% in February, March Japanese new car sales reduce their fall slightly at -11% overall to 695,411 registrations. Mazda is the only domestic manufacturer to post a year-over-year increase at 1%, with Toyota and Honda both down 15%, Daihatsu down 2%, Nissan down 18% and Suzuki down 7%. Regular cars are down 13%, kei cars are down 8% and foreign models down 6%.

Toyota Alphard Japan March 2015. Picture courtesy response.jpToyota Alphard

In the regular model rankings, Toyota Aqua keeps its crown with 30,414 units, the first time in a year (since March 2014) that sales reached the 30,000 mark. The next 4 spots stay the same from last month, but the Honda Vezel up 23% jumps into #5. Mazda’s rival small crossover, the all-new CX-3, posts 5,503 units in its first full month climbing to #22. The new generation Vellfire is up 36% while its more conservatively styled twin Alphard is up 26% to #20. The Subaru Levorg is up 8 spots this month with 6,036 units, its second highest volume since debuting last spring.

Honda S660 Japan March 2015Honda S660

Over on the kei chart, the Honda N-Box is March’s best-selling nameplate edging out Toyota Aqua by 219 units and 30,633 sales. This includes the new N-Box Slash version that debuted in December. All in all, sales of Honda’s “N” series kei cars have now topped 1 million units, solidifying the brand’s place in this unique Japanese market. After nearly two decades since the Honda Beat was last produced, the S660 officially goes on sale April 2 after the concept was shown at the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show, therefore the 19 units registered in March are likely dealer demos. Adding to the diversification of the kei segment, Suzuki released this month the Turbo RS version of its popular Alto lifting sales to 15,788.

Mercedes-Benz C250, AMG Line, Avantgarde, Diamantsilber metallicMercedes C-Class

As is the case every quarter, we have access to the top-selling foreign models with the perennial champ VW Golf keeping the top spot despite sales down 30% to 8,386 units. In #2 again is the new generation Mercedes C-Class up 103% with an all-time best quarter score of 7,082 units. The Mercedes GLA also had its best quarter so far since debuting in Japan last summer at #7 and 2,076 sales. The new BMW 2 Series is up 12 spots to #8 with 1,884 units. Further down the ranking both the Mercedes B-Class and Fiat 500 make their reappearance at #18 and #20 respectively.

Previous month: Japan February 2015: Honda Jade and Mazda CX-3 land

One year ago: Japan March 2014: Toyota Voxy one in 7 models to break all-time records

One year ago (Kei cars): Japan Kei cars March 2014: Daihatsu Tanto above 30,000 sales!

Full March 2014 Top 55 brands, Top 30 regular cars, Top 30 Kei cars and Q1 Top 15 imports below.

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Categories: Japan

Japan February 2015: Honda Jade and Mazda CX-3 land

March 6th, 2015 No comments

Mazda CX-3 Japan February 2015. Picture courtesy autocar.jpFirst month of sales for the Mazda CX-3 in Japan.

* See the Top 30 best-selling cars, kei cars and Top 54 All-brands by clicking on the title *

Analysis written in cooperation with Stephen Bloom

February sales remain well below last year’s pre-tax increase level, but they were a bit better than January. Overall sales are down 15% to 482,103 registrations, bringing the year-to-date total to 883,469 units, down 17% on 2014. Kei sales are down 15% from last year, and foreign models down 11%. The Top 9 brands are unchanged on last month, with Toyota (-18%), Honda (-17%), Nissan (-21%), Daihatsu (-9%) and Suzuki (-13%) in the lead. Subaru (+1%) and Isuzu (+15%) are the only manufacturers in the Top 10 to increase their sales year-on-year. Further down, Mini (+28%), Jeep (+25%), Jaguar (+21%), Cadillac (+13%), Renault (+10%) and Mercedes (+4%) also progress.

Mini Countryman Japan February 2015. Picture courtesy response.jpMini sales are up 28% year-on-year in Japan this month in a market down 15%.

In the models ranking, the recently refreshed Toyota Aqua stays at #1 with 22,788 units. This is the first time in 5 months that its monthly volume has been above 20,000. The Toyota Prius swaps spots with Honda Fit yet again, but the real news this month comes from further down the chart. The new generation manga-inspired Toyota Vellfire and Alphard reappear at #15 and #25 after going on sale the end of January.

Honda Jade Japan February 2015. Picture courtesy of response.jpHonda Jade

We also welcome two all-new models to the chart this month: the Honda Jade lands at #27 with 2,789 sales after debuting in China late 2013. The Jade is replacing the discontinued Stream in Honda’s lineup and is being relased as a hybrid only with the gasoline version to go on sale later this year. For perhaps the first time ever this gives Honda 6 models in the Top 30 this month. Also making its debut this month is the Mazda CX-3, released as a clean-diesel only since this has accounted for 80% of big brother CX-5’s sales. The CX-3 lands at #29 with 2,506 sales vs. #21 and 3,393 (-25%) for the CX-5 but expect it to climb the ladder fast over the coming months.

Toyota Alphard Japan February 2015. Picture courtesy response.jp Toyota Vellfire Japan February 2015. Picture courtesy response.jpThe new gen Toyota Alphard & Vellfire look like they come straight from a manga…

The new generation Subaru Legacy maintains itself inside the Top 30 thanks to sales up 118% year-on-year despite the discontinuation of the Touring Wagon version. It seems consumers perferring a wagon a bit bigger and more luxurious than the Levorg have been moving over to the Outback crossover. Outback sales have been accounting for approximately 70% of Legacy sales since the new model was released in late October.

Subaru Legacy Outback Japan February 2015. Picture courtesy jiji.comSubaru Legacy Outback

The kei chart doesn’t see quite as much activity. The Honda N-BOX stays at #1 since the launch of its new Slash variant. The N/ accounts for about 12% of N-BOX sales with 1,811 sold in December and 2,317 in January, but this has so far been enough to stay in the lead. The Nissan Dayz remains at #2 though this is somewhat misleading as it includes both the regular wagon version and the taller Roox which other manufacturers tally as two separate nameplates, for example N-WGN and N-BOX. Nevertheless this is still quite an achievement in a segment that until recently has been dominated by two manufacturers but is now a four horse race. The new generation Daihatsu Move drops to #4 below last year’s champion Tanto. The new Suzuki Alto also drops one place while its rebadge, the Mazda Carol, climbs 7 after going on sale a month after its OEM cousin.

Previous post: Japan Full Year 2014: Now with exclusive Top 189 All-local models

Previous month: Japan January 2015: Toyota Aqua triumphs thanks to facelift

One year ago (regular cars): Japan February 2014: Toyota Aqua #1, Voxy and Noah shoot up

One year ago (kei cars): Japan Kei cars February 2014: Nissan Dayz above 20,000 units

Full February 2015 Top 30 models & kei cars and Top 54 All-brands  below.

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Categories: Japan

Japan Full Year 2014: Now with exclusive Top 189 All-local models

February 16th, 2015 No comments

X-Trail CX-5 Harrier Japan 2014. Picture courtesy autoc-one.jpNissan X-Trail, Mazda CX-5, Toyota Harrier – SUV sales surged 62% in 2014 in Japan.

* See the Top 189 All-local models by clicking on the title *

Today at BSCB we can share with you an exclusive All-local models ranking by variant (Corolla Axio and Corolla Fielder separated for example), and the analysis of this sales charts comes to you courtesy of Japanese market specialist Stephen Bloom, starting with the Top Events of 2014 in Japan and continuing onto a view towards the near future of the Japanese market.

Top Events of 2014

1. Consumption Tax Increase

As has been mentioned many times the most impactful event for Japan’s auto market was the increase of the national consumption tax rate from 5% to 8% on April 1 (the beginning of Japan’s fiscal year). Heeding some dire predictions of double digit drops, automakers did their best to push out some major new models before the tax hike. Consumers also scrambled to make big purchases like automobiles that pushed first quarter sales to levels not seen in a decade. After the tax increase sales did drop precipitously, but buy the end of the year things had pretty much stabilized and in the end annual sales were up 3.5% in thanks primarily to one segment in particular…

Honda N-WGN Japan 2014. Picture courtesy autoc-one.jpHonda N-WGN

2. Kei Shift

2014’s growth was primarily to a class of vehicles that seldom seen outside of Japan, the kei car. The word kei in Japanese means “light” and these cars are not only light but tiny owing to strict regulations of both their exterior dimensions and engine displacement (660cc). In exchange they benefit from a lower taxes compared to larger vehicles which has made them enormously popular. Sales of kei cars reached an all time record of 2.3 million units that accounted for 40% share of the total vehicle market. That share has increased almost 3% per year for the past couple years, but 2015 may change all that. The government, concerned that auto manufacturers are focusing too much development on a class primarily geared for the domestic market, is introducing higher kei car taxes on April 1 to bring them more in line with traditional vehicles. This is highly unpopular with consumers and automakers alike, but I do not see it being a death knell to the segment as they will remain among the most affordable and fuel efficent vehicles on the market.

3. SUV Surge

In a country where small cars and minivans dominate the roadways the fastest growing segment was neither of these but SUVs (and note that this terminology is used in Japan for vehicles that are predominately crossovers). Sales of SUVs were up 62% over 2013 overtaking both sedans and hatchbacks in popularity following the trend seen in other markets. We saw some major debuts in this segment, such as the all new Honda Vezel and Lexus NX, as well as the redesigned Toyota Harrier and Nissan X-Trail. The trend even extended into the kei segment with the popular Suzuki Hustler. I expect the SUV surge to continue as Mazda debuts the CX-3 this spring and Toyota is surely developing a smaller crossover of its own to compete with the Vezel.

Toyota Mirai Japan 2014Toyota Mirai

4. Next generation fuel vehicles

Japan has always been at the forefront of emerging technology and this is reflected in the highest penetration of alternative fuel vehicles in the world. Since the Japanese government introduced tax incentives for “next-generation” vehicles in April 2009 hybrids models have dominated the charts with the third generation Toyota Prius and Toyota Aqua leading the charge. 2014 marked some major milestones for the HV-EV market. For the first time annual domestic sales exceeded 1 million thanks to it also being the first time that all all eight major manufacturers offer hybrid vehicles in their lineup. Sales were up 10% in 2014 accounting for 22% of all passenger vehicle sales. Likewise the number of HV-EV models available has more than tripled in the last 5 years from only12 models in 2009 to about 50 at present. Japan’s incentives for next generation vehicles apply not only to hybrids and electric vehicles but also to clean diesel vehicles. This year also saw the debut of the Toyota MIRAI, a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle that adopts its name for the Japanese word meaning “future”.

Jeep Cherokee Japan 2014. Picture courtesy autoc-one.jpJeep Cherokee

5. Foreign brands continue to rise

Although foreign brands account for only about 6% of Japan’s car sales, 2014 marks the 5th consecutive year that sales of foreign automakers have increased. There were 290,196 new registrations this year, behind only 1996 and 1997, the years immediately preceeding the Asian Financial Crisis. Most foreign brands saw record-breaking numbers in 2014, including 4 of the top 5 brands. The top 5 brands have been all German since Mini outpaced Volvo in 2006 and this was again the case in 2014. The new Jeep Cherokee helped Jeep widen its lead over Ford as the top-selling American brand. The VW Golf led sales with 31,410 units which if included among JADA’s model rankings would have placed it at #25 ahead of the Subaru Levorg. The Golf also was the first non-Japanese car to win the Japan Car of the Year award (2013-2014).

Domestic Brands

Toyota remains the dominant player by far, but also was the brand most affected by the shift to kei cars. Toyota’s share of the total passenger market slipped 2% though admittedly this was partially offset by a 1% gain for subsidiary Daihatsu. 2015 should be a big year for Toyota as the 4th generation Prius is scheduled to debut as well as the new Alphard and Vellfire.

Honda solidifies its place as Japan’s second best-selling with the revamp of one of its core models the Honda Fit and the addition of its crossover brother Vezel. Honda will continue to revamp the remainder of its lineup with the next generation Freed, StepWGN and Legend as well as new models Jade and S660. Honda also completed its new “N” series kei lineup with the addition of the N-WGN and N-BOX Slash. Honda is now the third best-selling maker of kei cars behind only Daihatsu and Suzuki, both of which are primarily kei manufacturers.

The analysis continues below.

Previous year: Japan Full Year 2013: Now with Top 165 All-local models ranking

Previous FY14 post: Japan Full Year 2014: Kei cars surge, Daihatsu Tanto above Toyota Aqua

Previous year: Japan Full Year 2013: Toyota Aqua celebrates first year on top

Previous year (Kei): Japan Kei cars Full Year 2013: Honda N-BOX takes control

Previous year (imports): Japan Imports Full Year 2013: BMW 3 Series up 69% to #2

 

Complete analysis, FY 2014 Top 189 All-local models vs. FY2013 figures below.

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Categories: Japan

Japan January 2015: Toyota Aqua triumphs thanks to facelift

February 7th, 2015 No comments

Toyota Aqua X-URBAN Japan January 2015. Picture courtesy autoc-one.jpToyota Aqua X-URBAN

* Discover the Top 30 best-selling models and Top 53 All-brands. Thanks Stephen *

The first quarter of 2014 saw record sales in Japan due to an impending tax increase. Consequently, January 2015 sales are well below (-19%), with imports faring the best at -14.5% and KEI cars down 19%. Automakers are doing their best to mitigate the damage and many new and refreshed models hitting the charts this month and on the horizon. At the top of the regular model charts is 2014’s best seller the Toyota Aqua. Though down 13% year-on-year, it starts the new year with a more than an 8000 unit-lead over its closest competitor. The Aqua received a major facelift in December plus the addition of the crossover-styled X-URBAN model.

Subaru Legacy Japan January 2014. Picture courtesy of jp.autoblog.comSubaru Legacy

Honda Fit barely reclaims the #2 spot from Toyota Prius, while its new sedan counterpart Grace slips to #17 after its debut last month at #10. Mazda released mid-cycle refreshed models of two of it’s best sellers this month the CX-5 and Atenza with the former climbing nine places to #20. Toyota’s fullsize minivan twins Alphard and Vellfire received a full model change for the first time in 8 years on January 26, so while inventory of the old model was cleared out to make way for the new generation both namplates disappear from the January Top 30 but expect a big return in February. This did let another recent debut sneak back onto the chart, however, the new generation Subaru Legacy finally appears at #28 after going on sale the end of October. Subaru has discontinued production of the Legacy Touring Wagon to focus on the slightly smaller Levorg, so this may be the last appearance of this model on the chart as the wagon accounted for a majority of Legacy sales now consisting of only the B4 sedan and Outback crossover versions.

Honda N: Japan January 2015. Picture courtesy autoc-one.jpHonda N-BOX Slash: Kei cars are getting weirder by the minute in Japan.

The Kei chart starts off the year with quite a lot of movement. Climbing four spots to #1 the Honda N-Box returns with the debut of N-Box Slash (N/). The Slash incorporates the hidden door handles of the Vezel to give more of a coupe appearance while the interior is available in several America-inspired retro styles. I expect this model to be a fairly niche vehicle so it may drop pretty quickly like we see from the Daihatsu Wake this month. The Nissan Dayz climbs a massive eight spots to #2 in thanks to an ad push and newly available emergency brake assist technology and around-view monitor. This leaves the new generation Daihatsu Move which debuted in December at #3 and last year’s top seller Tanto at #4.

Previous post: Japan Full Year 2014: Kei cars surge, Daihatsu Tanto above Toyota Aqua

Previous month: Japan December 2014: Honda Grace lands directly at #10

One year ago (regular): Japan January 2014: Nissan X-Trail, Honda Vezel & Toyota Harrier beat records

One year ago (Kei): Japan Kei cars January 2014: Honda N-WGN passes N-BOX to #2

Full January 2015 Top 30 regular models, Top 35 Kei cars and Top 53 All-brands below.

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Japan Full Year 2014: Kei cars surge, Daihatsu Tanto>Toyota Aqua

January 12th, 2015 No comments

Daihatsu Tanto Japan 2014. Picture courtesy of response.jpThe Daihatsu Tanto is the best-selling vehicle in Japan in 2014.

* See the Top 60 brands, Top 30 models, Top 40 Kei cars and Top 20 imports by clicking on the title *

At the start of 2014, JAMA’s forecast for the Japanese new car market was a 10% retraction on 2013 due to a tax increase to come into effect on April 1. Instead, sales were brought forward over the first quarter of the year and we have a market up 3.5% to 5.562.887 deliveries in the full year. This growth is mainly due to the so-called “Kei shift”. While regular cars are up just 0.8% to 3.290.098 units, Kei car sales were up a monstrous 8% this year to reach an all-time high of 2.272.789 units and a record 40.9% market share in Japan. A unique category of cars, Kei vehicles are powered by a 660cc engine or less and cannot exceed 3.4m length, 1.48m width and 2m height, giving them a relatively cumbersome appearance. They benefit from lower tax rates and weren’t affected by the recent tax increase. This may change however in 2015 Kei car taxes are scheduled to align with larger vehicles. The coming of age of Kei cars is the main event of 2014 in Japan: the sales volume reached by these tiny vehicles place them almost at the same level as some of the largest European markets like Russia (2.5 million) and the UK (2.476 million), and well above France (1.795 million). In fact, for the first time since 2008 a Kei car is the most popular vehicle in the country: the Daihatsu Tanto. More on this below.

Honda Vezel Japan May 2014. Picture courtesy of carsensor.netThe Vezel helped push Honda’s regular car sales up 25% in 2014.

Brands

As far as regular cars are concerned, Toyota remains by far the most popular manufacturer in the country with just under 45% share while Honda (+25%) brilliantly overtakes Nissan (-13%) to climb into 2nd place thanks to the success of the Fit and Vezel. Mazda, Subaru and Suzuki hold onto their ranking while Isuzu (+18%) passes Volkswagen, still the best-selling foreign manufacturer in the country with 67,438 deliveries and 2% share. Mercedes is catching up fast however at +13% to 60,839 units while BMW (-1%) passes Lexus (-5%) and Audi (+10%) continues to progress. Notice also Jeep up 36%, Renault up 24%, Porsche up 11% and Maserati up 187%.

Jeep Grand Cherokee Japan 2014. Picture courtesy of response.jpJeep sales are up 36% year-on-year in Japan in 2014.

Adding Kei cars completely changes the local brands picture, confirming how impactful this format has become in Japan: Toyota stays #1 but sees its share thaw significantly to 27.1% vs. 28.6% in 2013, Honda manages to hold onto the #2 spot at 15.3% but Suzuki shoots up to #3 and 14.2% ahead of Daihatsu at 12.7% and Nissan at 12%. Mazda now only holds 4% of the overall Japanese market in 6th place with Subaru at 3%, Mitsubishi at 2.2% and Isuzu at 1.3%. Volkswagen is the only foreigner in the Top 10.

Toyota Aqua Japan 2014The Toyota Aqua is #1 regular car for the 2nd straight year in Japan.

Regular models

Despite sales down 11% on 2013, the Toyota Aqua resists the assault of the new generation Honda Fit (+12%) to sign off 2014 with a 2nd consecutive pole position finish at 233,209 deliveries vs. 202,838 for the Fit. The fight was intense, with the Fit holding the year-to-date top spot in January, April and May. In urgent need of a refresh, the Toyota Prius is down 28% to #3, its lowest annual ranking at home since 2008 when it was #5. The Toyota Corolla is boosted up 12% by new hybrid versions, gaining one spot on 2013 to #4 and 114,331 sales, its best annual tally since 2008.

Toyota Noah Japan March 2014. Picture courtesy of response.jpThe Toyota Noah is up to a best-ever #5.

Toyota’s boxy MPV range had a stunning year thanks to their refresh: the Noah is up 160% and 11 spots to a best-ever 5th place and 109,174 units – peaking at #3 in April – while the Voxy is up 12 ranks and 115% to #10 and 69,605 sales. Add to this 11,028 additional units of the third declination of the concept, the Esquire – up to #7 in December, and you have a very rosy picture indeed, the triplets adding up to a gargantuan 189,807 sales – more than the Prius.

Toyota Harrier Japan October 2014The Toyota Harrier peaked at a record 7th place in November.

The success story of the year is without contest the Honda Vezel (aka H-RV), jumping directly into 7th place for its first full year in market and just missing out on a 6-digit sales figure at 96,029 units. It peaked at #4 in June. Now replacing the Vanguard and a Toyota variant of the Lexus RX no more, the Toyota Harrier kept breaking nameplate sales records month after month this year, finishing at a splendid 11th place with 64,920 sales and peaking at #7 in November. Notice also the Nissan X-Trail up 91% to #13, the Mazda Axela up 148% to a best-ever #19 and the Honda Odyssey up 121% to #24. The Subaru Levorg at #26 is the only all-new model in the Top 30.

Suzuki Hustler Japan August 2014. Picture courtesy of webcg.comThe Suzuki Hustler is the most successful new launch of 2014 in Japan.

Kei cars

For the first time since the Suzuki WagonR in 2008, the best-selling vehicle in Japan in 2014 is a Kei car the Daihatsu Tanto, for the first time crowned both in the Kei and overall categories thanks its relaunch that led sales up a gargantuan 62% to 234,456 units. The Tanto broke its all-time monthly sales record in March at 30,688 deliveries. The Honda N-BOX is kicked down to #2 while the Suzuki WagonR remains #3. In a very dynamic market, the Nissan Dayz more than doubles its sales year-on-year to reach #4, the Honda N-WGN spends its first full year in market in 5th position with almost 150,000 sales while the Daihatsu Mira, Move, Suzuki Spacia and Alto all eclipse 100,000 annual deliveries by a large margin. The super cute Suzuki Hustler is the most successful all-new vehicle in the country (all categories) with stellar sales hitting 104,234. Notice also the Daihatsu Wake landing at #16 with 16,610 sales.

VW Golf Japan 2014. Picture courtesy of motordays.comThe VW Golf hits a record 32,410 sales in Japan in 2014.

Foreign models

As it has been the case for at least the last 14 years, the VW Golf leads foreign models in Japan with sales up 32% to 32,410, earning it a 25th spot in the overall models ranking and to my knowledge the first time a foreign model sells above 30,000 units in a single year, also breaking the 10,000 quarterly sales for the first time during Q1. Mini is up 3% to #2 but the Mercedes C-Class comes in close at #3 thanks to sales up 30%, overtaking the BMW 3 Series (-15%). The Audi A3 more than doubles its sales on 2013 to land in 6th place thanks to the new sedan, the Mercedes S-Class flamboyantly finds its way back into the Top 20 at #13 with 6,706 sales thanks to the new model while the Mercedes CLA (#19) and GLA (#20) make a noticed first appearance. Note the entire Top 10 is composed of German cars and there are only 3 non-Germans in the Top 20: the Volvo V40 (#11), V60 (#15) and Fiat 500 (#16)…

Previous post: Japan December 2014: Honda Grace lands directly at #10

Previous post (imports): Japan Imports Q4 2014: Mercedes C-Class up to 2nd place

Previous year: Japan Full Year 2013: Toyota Aqua celebrates first year on top

Previous year (Kei): Japan Kei cars Full Year 2013: Honda N-BOX takes control

Previous year (imports): Japan Imports Full Year 2013: BMW 3 Series up 69% to #2

Two years ago: Japan FY 2012: Toyota Aqua most successful launch in 20 years, tickles Prius

Two years ago (Kei): Japan Kei cars FY 2012: Daihatsu Mira ends 9 years of Suzuki Wagon R reign

Two year ago (imports): Japan Imports Full Year 2012: VW Golf #1, Mini at record heights

Full Year 2014 Top 60 brands, Top 30 models, Top 40 Kei cars and Top 20 imports vs. Full 2013 figures below.

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Categories: Japan

Japan December 2014: Honda Grace lands directly at #10

January 11th, 2015 No comments

Honda Grace Japan December 2014. Picture courtesy of car.watch.impress.co.jpHonda Grace

After a very turbulent year the Japanese auto market ends 2014 on a positive note, ending 5 consecutive months of YOY declines up 2% in December. Kei sales are pulling the market up at a massive +18.5% in December. In the “traditional” models ranking, the big news this month is the debut of the Honda’s newest dedicated hybrid model, the Grace, at #10 with 5,138 sales. Mostly the same as the Fit-based sedan known in other parts of the world as the Honda City, the Grace is marketed as smaller version of its larger Accord and soon to be released Legend (Acura RLX) brothers. The Grace also now effectively replaces the now-discontinued Insight and will compete against the Toyota Corolla Axio.

Toyota Esquire Japan December 2014Toyota Esquire

After its significant debut last month the new Toyota Esquire climbs a further 4 spots to #7 with 5,712 units while the chart above remains unchanged since last month. The new Demio is again at #4 (7,419 sales) as its AWD model was released this month following the 2WD gasoline and diesel versions in the months prior. Further down the chart the Subaru Impreza (#16) and Forester (#26) both climb thanks to mid-cycle refreshed models going on sale the end of November, making it 3 Subarus in the Top 30 along with the Levorg at #22.

Suzuki Alto Japan December 2014Suzuki Alto

Over on the Kei car side, like in November the Daihatsu Tanto is not the best seller this month as it suffers from the recent arrivals of the new Wake (up to #9 and 9,354 sales) and the new generation Move climbing 7 spots on November to #3 and 16,361 sales. #1 goes to the Suzuki WagonR, whose sales (18,255 in December) have been energised the past several months due to the introduction of Suzuki’s “S-ene charge” technology. Suzuki also released this month the newest yet retro-styled Alto which climbs to #6 with 11,845 sales.

Previous month: Japan November 2014: Daihatsu Wake and Toyota Esquire land

One year ago: Japan December 2014: Honda Fit leads, Vezel lands at #25

Full December 2014 Top 30 models and Top 35 Kei cars Ranking Tables below.

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Japan Imports Q4 2014: Mercedes C-Class up to 2nd place

January 11th, 2015 No comments

Mercedes C Class Japan December 2014. Picture courtesy of response.jpMercedes C-Class

* See the Top 20 best-selling models by clicking on the title *

In a market down 11%, imports are up a robust 2% year-on-year in Japan to 35,238 deliveries for a 17.8% market share. A complete brands rankings will be published in the Full Year 2014 updates, for now I give you the traditional quarterly imported models update for Japan. As always Japanese car buyers are extremely fickle and tire of novelty real fast. Case in point: a little bit over a year after the 7th generation launched here, the VW Golf is already down 17% but remains in pole position with 7,603 sales. Reversely, the new gen Mercedes C-Class properly sparkles: up 180% year-on-year over the last quarter of 2014 to a fantastic 2nd place with 6,407 units sold, kicking Mini (all models) down to #3 despite sales up 19%.

Mercedes-Benz GLA 220 CDI 4MATIC (X156) 2013The Mercedes GLA is inside the imported Top 10…

Excellent performance of the VW Polo up 55% to #4 and of the Audi A3 up 63% to #6 thanks to the new sedan. German premium manufacturers tighten their grip over the imported models ranking even further with the Mercedes GLA breaking into the Top 10 for the first time thanks to 1,824 sales, the Mercedes CLA back up to #16, the BMW 4 Series up one spot on Q3 to #17 and the BMW 2 Series landing directly among the Top 20 most successful imported nameplates in the country for its first quarter of sales at #20 and 943 units.

BMW 2 Series Japan December 2014. Picture courtesy of autoc-one.jp…while the BMW 2 Series is already inside the Top 20.

Previous post: Japan Imports Q2 2014: Mercedes C-Class up to third place

One year ago: Japan Q4 2013: VW Golf breaks volume record

Full Q4 2014 Top 20 models Ranking Table below.

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Japan November 2014: Daihatsu Wake and Toyota Esquire land

December 4th, 2014 No comments

Daihatsu Wake Japan November 2014. Picture courtesy of response.jpDaihatsu Wake

* 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.

Mazda Demio Japan November 2014. Picture courtesy of car.watch.impress.co.jpThe new generation Mazda Demio lifts the nameplate to its highest ranking in 3 years.

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.

Toyota Harrier Japan November 2014The Toyota Harrier rises to a best-ever 7th place in November.

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%).

Lexus NX Japan November 2014The Lexus NX is the phantom player in the Top 30…

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 Esquire Japan November 2014. Picture courtesy of ismcdn.jpToyota Esquire

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!

Toyota Esquire Voxy Noah Japan November 2014. Picture courtesy of autoc-one.jpFrom left to right: Toyota Esquire, Voxy and Noah

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.

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Categories: Japan