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Japan September 2012: Nissan Note hits highest volume ever

Nissan Note

* See the Top 30 best-selling models by clicking on the title! *

After being in negative for 12 consecutive months from September 2010 to August 2011, then in positive for 12 months in a row also from September 2011 to August 2012, the Japanese market is down 8% year-on-year in September to 288,478 registrations. The reason is the end of the government subsidy program for eco-friendly vehicles. Year-to-date, the market is however still up a very healthy 38% on 2011 to 2,706,327 units. And it’s a very eventful models ranking this month indeed…

Toyota Aqua

First the Toyota Prius gets slammed by the end of incentives, dropping an alarming 33% year-on-year to 22,091 sales, only 52 above its little sister the Toyota Aqua, seemingly less affected by subsidy stop at 22,039 units. This is an even closer gap than the 599 that separated the two models last May, and the Aqua, already the best-selling body style in Japan for the last 7 months (Prius sales include the MPV version), could shortly become the overall best-seller… Year-to-date the Prius is still in command by far with 260,947 sales vs. 195,632 for the Aqua and is on its way to a 4th consecutive year as Japan’s top seller by year-end.

Nissan Note

The big event this month is without a doubt the arrival in third position of the new generation Nissan Note, selling 18,355 units in September alone – that’s more than the previous generation’s sales in the last 5 months combined and an all-time volume record for the Note nameplate, originally launched in the country in January 2005. The Note is a bit of a fashion victim when it comes to sales, with the previous generation’s first year being the best by very far, so expect its selling rate to slow down once the ‘honeymoon period’ is over in about 6 months time.

#3 is also the Note’s highest ever ranking in Japan and the 2nd time it reaches that level. As a reminder, let’s ‘note’ that the first gen Note ranked #3 as early as in February 2005 for its 2nd month of sales with 12,678 units. This would end up being the Note’s only podium finish up until this month, as it went on to peak at 17,946 units in March 2005 but was down to #4 by then. It would rank #5 twice in 2005 (April and May) and never higher than #6 (March 2010) during the following 7 years. Note sales followed a bizarre pattern of only passing 10,000 units in March of every second year: 12,123 in March 2006, 10,157 in March 2008, 10,792 in March 2010 and 10,653 in March 2012 are the only times the model sold 5 digit-figures!

Looking at year-end figures, the Note finished 2005 in 5th place with 93,925 sales, dropped 26% to #11 and 69,863 units in 2006 to then stabilise somewhat. It was #16 in 2007 with 55,659 sales (-20%), #11 in 2008 at 62,704 (+13%), #10 in 2009  at 65,745 (+5%), #10 in 2010 at 66,347 (+1%) and #13 in 2011 at 46,475 (-30%). Its September score makes it shoot up from #13 to #8 year-to-date with 55,134 units sold so far in 2012.

Subaru Impreza

Enough about the Note. There are many other events in the Japanese ranking this month, starting with the Subaru Impreza up a huge 10 spots on August to land in 6th position with 7,278 sales, up 194% year-on-year. This is the Impreza’s top position ever in Japan and the highest ranking reached by a Subaru in 13 years – since the Legacy hit #4 in July 1999… The Legacy still holds Subaru’s volume and ranking records at 14,509 units in March 1997 and #3 in July 1996 and July 1998. Note it is unclear whether Impreza sales include the XV model which has just launched in Japan alongside the hatchback.

Mazda CX-5

New models in Japan traditionally post their best sales in the first few months to then stabilise lower. The contrary is true for the Mazda CX-5, proof of future long-term success. Launched in January, the CX-5 broke into the Top 30 for the first time in March at #29, into the Top 20 in April at #19 and has just beaten its ranking record for the 4th time in the last 5 months. It ranks #10 in September with a record 5,530 sales, making Japan the third country in the world after New Zealand (in April) and Australia (in August) where the CX-5 has managed to break into the Top 10.

Mitsubishi Mirage

Popping up into the Top 10 last month, the Toyota Spade is up 18% on August but down to #11 at 5,513 units while the Toyota Porte is stable but down 4 ranks to #12. We welcome an all-new entrant in the Top 20 in September: the Mitsubishi Mirage lands directly at #14, going from 1,392 sales in August to 4,483 and #14 this month. Notice also the Toyota 86 lodging its 6th consecutive month in the Top 30 at #22 and 2,818 units.

Previous month: Japan August 2012: Toyota Porte and Spade pop up

One year ago: Japan September 2011: Toyota Prius and Honda Fit clear leaders

Full September 2012 Top 30 Ranking Table below.

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