* See the Top 30 best-selling models by clicking on the title! *
2009 will be remembered as key in the history of Japan and world automobile. It is the year the Toyota Prius replaced the Corolla as Toyota’s core sales and profits enabler in Japan. It is also the first time a hybrid model took the reins of any car market in the world.
The second generation Prius, launched in 2003, had impressed by its constant progression all the way up to last year when it landed #5 at +22%. The launch of the 3rd generation in May 09 was the coup the grace that propelled the Prius to the Japanese pole position. It shot to #1 in May and never looked back, peaking at 31,759 units in September, ending the year at 208,876 sales.
As a result, the Corolla, operating in the same size category, suffered a massive blow: it dropped 37% to 6th and 90,178 sales, and even ranked 15th in September, its weakest level since the launch of the Corolla nameplate in 1966… For the first time since 1968 the Corolla is not the best selling Toyota in Japan, and the Prius is now the default Toyota model in the country.
The other significant event of 2009, decidedly the year of the hybrid, is the February launch of the ‘Prius-killer’ from Honda, the Insight. For its 3rd month of sales, it managed to rank #1 in April, however dropped to #3 with the arrival of the new gen Prius, and except from one showing in December never managed to climb onto the podium again, finishing the year in 5th place with 93,283 sales.
The Honda Fit slips down a reasonable 10% in 2nd place with 157,324 sales, followed by the Toyota Vitz at -5%. The Toyota Passo has an excellent year in 4th at +36%, and the Honda Freed confirms last year’s good start to rank #7.
Previous year: Japan 2008: Honda Fit crowned
Next year: Japan 2010: Toyota Prius breaks record
Full Year 2009 Top 30 Ranking Table below.