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Japan March 2020: Mazda shines, Corolla, Fit and Yaris surge to top, VW T-Cross instant hit in slimmest market drop in 6 months (-9.3%)

The Honda Fit hits its highest ranking at home in over 5 years at #2.

Apart from school closures, international travel bans and of course the postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, as of March 31 Japan had been relatively unscathed by the COVID-19 pandemic, even being hailed as a success story of community prevention and protection against the virus. March new vehicle sales are very important as they mark the end of the Japanese Financial Year and traditionally trigger the highest monthly volume all year. And thanks to a low infection rate throughout the month and no business closures, they even mark a slight improvement over the five consecutive double-digit drops endured from October to February at -9.3% to 581.438. The year-to-date tally is now down -10.2% to 1.371.726 units. However, April is likely to be the month when the Japanese market falls off a cliff: confirmed COVID0-19 cases have doubled in the past week (from 1.953 as of March 31 to 3.906 as of April 6), and Prime Minister Abe is expected to declare a month-long state of emergency, the first in Japan history, on April 7. The declaration is set to take effect in the prefectures of Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama, Chiba, Osaka, Hyogo and Fukuoka.

The Toyota Corolla scores its largest monthly volume in 12 years.

Some manufacturers such as Toyota, Mazda and Subaru have idled local factories due to slumping overseas demand, but the national market is untouched in March. Toyota (-2.9%) only edges up to reach 29.9% share while Suzuki (-9.9%) follows the market and is up to #2, dislodging Honda (-13.4%) in difficulty. Mazda (+8.2%) posts the only gain among the Top 12 carmakers, with Daihatsu (-6.1%) also outpacing its home market but Mitsubishi (-26%), Nissan (-19%), Subaru (-18.2%) and Isuzu (-16.7%) are hit hard this month. Mercedes (-11.7%) remains the most popular foreign carmaker above Volkswagen (-18%), BMW (-19.8%), Audi (-0.1%), Mini (-26.3%) and Volvo (-7.9%), a ranking unchanged on February. Ferrari (+91.8%), Porsche (+69.8%), Citroen (+52.4%), Cadillac (+29.2%), Jeep (+25%), Lotus (+14.3%) and Fiat (+8.1%) are among the best performers further down but none manages a market share above 0.2%.

The Toyota Yaris lands on the podium for its 2nd month in market.

In the regular car ranking, the Toyota Corolla (+54.8%) ends two months of interruption by the Toyota Raize (#4) to resume its charts domination, posting a 4th win in the past 6 months. At 16.327 units, the Corolla signs its largest monthly volume at home since March 2008 (20.580). Note before the current streak, the Corolla had not managed to rank #1 in Japan for 12 years: between October 2007 and October 2019, hampered by the success of the similarly-sized Prius. Boosted by a new generation, the Honda Fit (+37.3%) climbs to 2nd place this month, its highest ranking since January 2015 (#2), also scoring its largest volume since March 2016 at 14.845. Launched last month and now sporing the same name as overseas, the Toyota Yaris shoots up 19 spots to land in third place with 13.164 units, and we have to go back to April 2019 (#3) and July 2012 (13.138) to find equivalent scores by its predecessor the Vitz. The Toyota Tank (+17%), Roomy (+10.6%) and Alphard (+3.8%) also shine in the Top 20, while the Toyota RAV4 (#15), Mazda CX-30 (#18), Mazda2 (#19), Daihatsu Rocky (#22) and Mazda3 (#31) are the other recent launches making it into the Top 50.

The Nissan Roox is reborn, and just misses out on a Top 10 kei car ranking.

The Top 5 kei cars are all in negative this month and only two of them outsell the #1 regular car: the Honda N-BOX (-16.4%) and Daihatsu Tanto (-6.2%) up one spot on February to #2. The Suzuki Spacia (-14.7%) and Daihatsu Move (-12.2%) also leapfrog past the Nissan Dayz (-26.7%) down 3 ranks to #5. In contrast, the Suzuki Hustler (+72.3%) and Honda N-WGN (+64.7%) both post spectacular gains to fit within the March Top 7 kei cars, just as the Suzuki Alto (+0.5%) manages to edge up to #8. Just outside the Top 10, we have a spectacular new launch: the Nissan Roox (a nameplate that was discontinued in June 2013) landing directly at #11 with over 7.600 sales. Mazda also stuns with four of its kei cars getting a mammoth uptick: the Flair Crossover (+141.3%), Flair (+51.3%), Carol (+35.2%) and Flair Wagon (+33%).

The VW T-Cross is an instant hit: directly #4 foreigner over Q1 2020.

Over the first Quarter of 2020, the Mini family (-24.6%) remains the best-selling “model” in Japan ahead of the VW Golf (-22.7%) and a surging Mercedes A-Class (+89.4%), replicating the Q4 2019 podium. But there is a thunderclap just outside the podium: the VW T-Cross is an instant blockbuster with Japanese buyers and lands at #4 with over 3.500 units sold in three months, in essence killing the VW Polo (-41%) down from #5 in Q4 2019 to #10 in Q1 2020. The BMW 3 Series drops one spot to #5, while the Volvo 60-Series (+16%) and 40-Series (-15.1%) both gain two spots to #6 and #7 respectively. Mercedes manages to place six nameplates inside the Top 20: the A-Class (#3), C-Class (#8), CLA (#9), GLC (#11), B-Class (#15) and E-Class (#17). The Jeep Wrangler posts a fourth consecutive quarter inside the Top 15 at #12 while the Audi Q2 (+6.9%) is also up year-on-year but down 4 spots on Q4 2019 to #16.

Previous month: Japan February 2020: Toyota Raize #1 again, Honda N-WGN up, Toyota Yaris in, 5th double-digit drop (-10.3%)

One year ago: Japan March 2019: Suzuki (+3.7%), Volvo (+11.3%) stay afloat in market down -4%

Full March 2020 Top 52 All-brands, Top 50 regular cars, Top 33 All-kei cars and Q1 2020 Top 20 foreign models below.

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