* 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.
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%).
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.
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 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.