Saved by Kei cars and imports, Japanese car market ends 2013 flat

1968 Subaru 360 meets modern day Panamera in Toyota City

1968 Subaru 360 meets modern day Panamera in Toyota City

2013 automobile sales (all classes) in Japan ended the year essentially flat, with 5.375 million units sold this year versus 5.369 million last year. Along with a last, tax-induced sales spurt in December, the Japanese car market was spared the embarrassment of negative numbers by strong sales of mini vehicles and imports.

Total vehicle sales rose a very strong 25 percent in December, driven by buyers intent on beating next year’s sales tax rise. Japanese OEMs are looking with apprehension at this number, knowing well that the price for the sales pulled forward will be paid next year. Toyota President Akio Toyoda, who this year serves also as Chairman of Japan’s manufacturers association JAMA, said that “because this upturn also reflected last-minute demand prior to the hike in the national consumption tax scheduled for this April, it is difficult to be optimistic about domestic market trends in the months to come.” That’s a polite way of saying that everybody expects the market to crater once the new taxes are in effect.

Japanese are long on imports

Japanese are long on imports

Sales of regular vehicles were down 3.8 percent in 2031. Sales would have been down more without the record sales of imported cars. Ignoring the Detroit tale of a Japanese market that is closed to imports, sales of Imports rose 9.5 percent in 2013, making the cars that Detroit says aren’t there  one of the best performing segments in Japan. Imports hold a 10.6 percent share of Japan’s regular vehicle market. With Kei cars taken into account, a segment where imported cars have no offers, the import market share stands at 6.4 percent. Hoping that their constituents can’t read, the alliance of Detroit automakers, the UAW, and Democrat lawmakers will nevertheless continue to uphold the lies of a closed market.

Mini vehicles, the Japanese oddity of small, but surprisingly roomy cars with pint-sized engines, were up 6.7 percent in 2013. Last year, 39.3 percent off all automobiles were of the Kei variety, up from 36.9 percent in 2012. The market itself is in turmoil, with established Kei car makers like Daihatsu or Subaru losing market share to Honda with its very successful; N-Box series and Nissan/Mitsubishi with the jointly produced Dayz/eK series. Complete data are here. Monthly sales data can be found here.