* See the Top 50 All-brands, Top 30 cars and Top 30 kei cars by clicking on the title *
This Japan update was created with the collaboration of Stephen Bloom.
The Japanese market continues to feel the effects of the fuel economy testing scandal that erupted at Mitsubishi earlier this year. Facing increased government scrutiny, Suzuki is the latest to reveal that improper methods were used to test the fuel economy of many of its vehicles. Retesting has actually shown that the fuel economy of affected Suzuki models is roughly the same or even better than published figures, but the continuing investigation has already damaged the company’s reputation and stock. As both Suzuki and Mitsubishi are among Japan’s leading manufacturers of kei minicars, that segment is particularly hit this month with sales down 14% to 107,834 units. In contrast, regular vehicles are up an encouraging 6.6% to 223.753 registrations with foreign brands up 6.8% to 21.488, but this isn’t enough to balance the losses from the fuel testing scandals. Overall sales are down 1.2% from last year to 331.587 units, with the year-to-date total down 4.8% to 2.126.438 deliveries.
Toyota posts a splendid double-digit increase at 11% to take off to 31.8% share vs. 29.1% so far in 2016, while in its wake Honda is up 4% to 14.7% share and Suzuki’s overall sales are down 7% to 13.9% share in the wake of its troubles as its losses in the kei market (-15%) were somewhat mitigated by strong sales of the new Ignis and other non-kei models (+82%). Suzuki still distances Daihatsu, itself up 6% to 11.7%. Mazda is down 33% compared to last May when the latest Roadster further added to the boost from the new CX-3 and Demio. Mitsubishi (-51%) and Nissan (-26%) are down huge percentages as production and sales of their most popular kei models remains halted.
Mercedes remains the most popular foreign manufacturers, evolving like the market at +8% to 4.649 units and leaping to 9th place overall – it was #12 in April. Volkswagen finally returns to growth after 7 consecutive months of decline triggered by its emissions scandal – it lost 48% last October. VW gains 10% in May to 4.-15 sales and it’s Audi that now suffers at -16%. Notice also Mini up 16%, Volvo up 24%, Jeep up 48%, Smart up 15-fold thanks to the new Fortwo and Forfour, Jaguar up 232% and DS up 83%.
Toyota continues to dominate the models chart this month starting with the Toyota Prius as Japan’s best-selling model for a sixth consecutive time, up 140% to 21.527 units, followed by the Aqua again at #2 and the Sienta at #3. The new third generation Passo leaps five places on April to #5 with sales up 129% to 6.784 units in its first full month on the market. After being available in Europe since 2013, Toyota finally released in April a hybrid version of the Auris in its home market boosting sales 177% and placing the nameplate in the Top 30 for the first time since February 2010. The Auris, sold elsewhere as the Corolla hatchback and Scion iM, remains a niche model at home as it falls into a different class than the smaller JDM Corolla.
Things remain shaky over on the kei charts as production and sales of the Nissan Dayz and Mitsubishi eK have stopped in the wake of the testing scandal. The Nissan Dayz remains the third best-selling kei model for the year, however that could quickly change if production doesn’t resume soon. Last year’s champion, Honda N-BOX, remains at the top of the chart for a third consecutive month with sales up 10% to 11.487 units. In a close race, the Daihatsu Tanto is up 30% and 11.283 units to place at #2 and even narrowly outselling the Toyota Aqua this month. With the exception of the Jimny, all other Suzuki models poste double digit decreases. The Honda N-WGN is up 20% and climbs one place to #6. Several other models show more modest increases as the kei market shows some signs of stabilization after 2014’s change to the vehicle taxes.
One year ago: Japan May 2015: Honda Shuttle and Mazda Roadster land
Full May 2016 Top 50 All-brands, Top 30 cars and Top 30 kei cars below.