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Japan December 2015: New Gen pushes Toyota Prius back to #1

Toyota Prius Japan December 2015. Picture courtesy response.jpThe 4th generation Toyota Prius is now in Japanese dealerships. Picture

* Click on title to see the Top 50 brands, Top 30 cars, Top 35 kei cars & Top 20 foreigners *

This report was created in collaboration with Stephen Bloom.

The Japanese automotive market continues its contraction in December. Sales of new vehicles are down 15% year-on-year to 369.459 registrations, and down 9% to 5.046.510 units for the year. Regular cars are up 3% to 239.084 but not nearly enough to make up for a 35% loss in the tax-challenged kei segment that contributes only 130.375 units this month. Imports are also down 14% to 29.171 units. Lexus again boasts the biggest year-over-year increase (+43%) among domestic manufacturers followed by corporate parent Toyota (+17%) and Mitsubishi Fuso (+5%). All other Japanese brands are down this month, particularly Suzuki (-45%) and Daihatsu (-37%) who mostly produce kei cars. Hit full frontal by its emissions scandal, Volkswagen (-39%) is now #3 foreign brand below Mercedes (-11%) and BMW (-6%).

Suzuki Solio Japan December 2015. Picture courtesy response.jpSuzuki Solio

The Toyota Aqua is not the best selling model in its home market for the first time since May 2014 (Honda Fit). The venerable hybrid relinquishes its crown this month to the one that started the hybrid wave. December marks the debut of the fourth generation Toyota Prius which begins its reign with 16.406 units its first month on sale. The last time the Prius topped the chart was June 2013. Toyota retains its control of the podium as the Sienta comes in at #3 (+754%). The Honda Fit rises slightly this month to #4 while the new Suzuki Solio is up 88% over this month last year and the Toyota Land Cruiser up 54%.

Daihatsu Tanto Custom Japan December 2015Daihatsu Tanto

The reigning kei champ also loses its crown in December as the Daihatsu Tanto retakes the #1 spot with 13.374 units thanks to a refresh this month. The Honda N-BOX falls to #2 while the Nissan Dayz and Daihatsu Cast stay at #3 and #4 respectively. The Suzuki WagonR climbs three spots to #5 overtaking the Daihatsu Move and the Suzuki Alto.

Mini Clubman Japan December 2015. Picture courtesy openers.jpMini Clubman. Picture

Continuing on the theme of new chart toppers, among imports the Mini finishes the quarter at #1 with 5.964 units ahead of the longtime champion VW Golf (-38%). The last time the Mini overtook VW was in the 2nd quarter of 2013 ahead of the launch of the current generation Golf. This time it is the damaged reputation of Volkswagen in the wake of the diesel scandal that caused its best-selling model to falter. Also keep in mind that Mini figures in Japan include all variants: Hatch, Paceman, Countryman and the newly-relaunched Clubman.

BMW 2 Series Gran Tourer Japan December 2015. Picture courtesy response.jpBMW 2 Series Gran Tourer. Picture 

The Polo (-54%), Beetle (-52%) and Up (-52%) all lose more than half their sales year-on-year this quarter while the Passat climbs to #13 after the new generation went on sale in Japan this summer. The BMW 2 Series continues to be a success as it climbs to #5 this quarter with 2.571 units up 173% year-on-year. The Mercedes CLS is up 71% and the BMW 1 Series up 13%.

Previous month: Japan November 2015: Toyota Voxy up, Volkswagen down 32%

One year ago: Japan December 2014: Honda Grace lands directly at #10

One year ago (imports): Japan Imports Q4 2014: Mercedes C-Class up to 2nd place

Full December 2015 Top 55 brands, Top 30 cars, Top 35 kei cars & Top 20 foreigners below.

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