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Japan March 2016: Kei cars pull market down 9%, Toyota Prius reigns

Toyota Prius Japan March 2016. Picture courtesy openers.jpThe Toyota Prius remains by far the most popular nameplate in Japan. 

* See the Top 53 All-brands, Top 30 cars, Top 35 kei cars and Top 20 foreigners by clicking on the title *

This article was written in collaboration with Stephen Bloom

March is typically a high volume month with car manufacturers offering big incentives before the start of the new fiscal year on April 1. This holds true again with a 41% increase over February, but year-over-year figures are not so fortunate. Monthly sales are down 8.6% from last year to 635.901 registrations. Regular cars are down 3.2% to 404.813 with imports down 7% to 37.069, but again the kei segment weighed down the overall totals dramatically. Kei sales are down a dramatic 16.7% to 231.088 though this was amplified as March 2015 sales were inflated ahead of the impending tax increase. As a result sales are anticipated to normalize somewhat next month.

VW Golf Japan March 2016. Picture courtesy of motordays.comThe VW Golf is the most popular foreigner over Q1 but Volkswagen sales are down 25%. 

Lexus (+41%) is the only Japanese brand that manages to stay in the black this month. Mitsubishi (-1%) and Suzuki (-7%) fare better than the average even with most of their lineup being kei cars, while Subaru (-33%) and Mazda (-24%) suffer the most. Mercedes (8.540 units) is the most popular foreign brand above BMW (6.516) while Volkswagen (-27%) and Audi (-21%) continue to be penalised for their emissions cheating scandal.

Honda Odyssey Japan March 2016Honda Odyssey (Australian model pictured) 

The new Toyota Prius remains the best-selling car in Japan with sales up 69% over the previous generation to 31.434 registrations. The top of the chart also remains unchanged since last month with the Toyota Aqua at #2 followed by the Honda Fit and Nissan Note. The new Toyota Sienta continues to cement its postion ahead of the Toyota Corolla and is so far staying close to both the Fit and Note in YTD totals. With no new models debuting last month there aren’t many surprises further down the chart though the recently debuted Suzuki Ignis is notably absent. The Honda Odyssey remains in the top 30 thanks to the recent addition of a hybrid version which helped boost sales 60% over last year.

Honda S660 Japan March 2016. Picture courtesy openers.jpHonda S660

Most kei models posted double digit drops compared to the pre-tax hike rally a year ago. Last year’s champion, the Honda N-BOX, retakes the top spot with 25.542 units well ahead of the Daihatsu Tanto which falls to #2 after its narrow lead last month. The Nissan Dayz and Suzuki Alto keep their #3 and #4 spots while the Suzuki WagonR jumps 4 spots to take #5 by just 20 units more than Honda’s N-WGN. A year after reigniting the kei sport segment the Daihatsu Copen is now being outsold by its rival, the Honda S660, roughly 2:1.

Mercedes GLC Japan March 2016. Picture coutesy autoc-one.jpThe Mercedes GLC-Class lands directly at #13 in the Q1 2016 foreign models ranking. 

As is the case each quarter, we can share the top-selling foreign models for the first 3 months of 2016. The VW Golf retakes the top postion with 6.836 units after slipping last quarter in the wake of the diesel scandal. Mini is back in the #2 spot with 6.010 units (this includes the Countryman and Paceman) though still well ahead of the Mercedes C-Class and BMW 3 Series which finish at #3 and #4 respectively. VW’s Polo also had a rebound, climbing 3 places to #5. Two new models make their debut on the chart this quarter: the Mercedes GLC-Class lands firmly at #13 with 1.654 units after just being released in Japan on February 9, and the smart for four, which went on sale in January, places at #18 with 1,209 units. The BMW X1 also returns inside the Top 20 thanks to its facelift: it ranks #16.

Previous post: Japan Full Year 2015: Now with exclusive Top 184 All-local models

Previous month: Japan February 2016: Toyota Prius stays put in market down 6%

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

Full March 2016 Top 53 All-brands, Top 30 cars, Top 35 kei cars and Q1 2016 Top 20 imports below.

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