Japanese domestic new car sales (excluding minivehicles) have been down 21.5 percent in January, the Japan Automobile Dealers Association told The Nikkei [sub]. 187,154 new cars changed hands. This does not surprise anybody in Japan. Some even see a silver lining.
This is the fifth down month in a row since the Japanese government withdrew subsidies for “purchases of environmentally friendly vehicles” in early September. Those “environmentally friendly vehicles” were just about anything that was up to Japanese code, and anyone who bought one received governmental cash. This had an immense pull-forward effect. The program was substantially different from the European cash for clunkers programs that pretty much made people buy a new car who would otherwise buy used. A program like this would not have worked in Japan. You find very few old daily drivers here. So much for the “no surprises” part.
The silver lining: The slide was slower than the December 28.3 percent fall. Some say it was because of new car introductions. Some say the pull forward effect is slowly petering out. It will define the Japanese market for most of the years though, if only because of a higher base with which the new sales are compared. January 2010 had been up 38.8 percent in Japan, February 35.1 percent.
We will bring you the minivehicle sales when we have them.
January could also have been the first time for 20 months when the Toyota Prius lost its title “Japan’s best selling car.” The Nikkei [sub] muses in a separate story that the Prius could have lost its crown to the Fit subcompact by Honda.