By on June 7, 2011

Japan’s March 11 tsunami had more destructive effects than just washing pint-sized (ok, ok, 0.6 liter sized) kei cars to the top of Japan’s sales charts. It also resulted in considerable menboku o tsubusu (literally “breaking of face”, dishonor) for Lexus. On its home-turf Japan, Toyota’s lux-brand was outsold by doitsu (German) BMW, even by Mercedes, a brand said to be popular with the yakuza. Speaking of major menboku o tsubusu: BMW did certainly not top Toyota, as Bloomberg insinuates.

Data published by the Japan Automobile Dealer Association shows Lexus with 1,789 sales in May.  In May, BMW sold 2,292 cars in Japan, while Mercedes sold 2,096. Hot on Lexus’ heels: Audi with 1,615 cars sold in May.

The JADA List. Sales of all brands in Japan, May 2011

Rank Make May ’11 May ’10 Change Rank YTD YTD ’11 YTD ’10 Change
1 Toyota 48,733 112,174 -56.6% 1 394,683 693,631 -43.1%
2 Nissan 37,987 43,623 -12.9% 2 223,944 289,117 -22.5%
3 Suzuki 36,473 47,658 -23.5% 3 216,846 284,290 -23.7%
4 Daihatsu 32,479 44,075 -26.3% 4 205,253 271,686 -24.5%
5 Honda 28,910 44,294 -34.7% 5 201,400 278,896 -27.8%
6 Mazda 12,155 17,542 -30.7% 6 74,954 103,186 -27.4%
7 Mitsubishi 10,552 11,456 -7.9% 7 63,782 79,299 -19.6%
8 Subaru 9,715 12,254 -20.7% 8 61,320 77,083 -20.4%
9 VW 3,859 3,634 6.2% 9 18,506 19,232 -3.8%
10 BMW 2,292 2,599 -11.8% 13 11,411 10,726 6.4%
11 Mercedes-Benz 2,096 2,061 1.7% 14 11,407 12,130 -6.0%
12 Lexus 1,789 1,889 -5.3% 11 13,953 17,010 -18.0%
13 Isuzu 1,648 3,066 -46.2% 10 14,678 17,476 -16.0%
14 Audi 1,615 1,331 21.3% 16 8,093 6,592 22.8%
15 Hino 1,078 1,878 -42.6% 12 11,993 12,428 -3.5%
16 BMW MINI 916 1,003 -8.7% 17 4,766 4,218 13.0%
17 Mitsubishi Fuso 894 1,573 -43.2% 15 8,710 9,156 -4.9%
18 Volvo 880 529 66.4% 18 3,718 2,804 32.6%
19 Fiat 508 362 40.3% 21 2,053 1,938 5.9%
20 Peugeot 480 469 2.3% 20 2,249 2,043 10.1%
21 UD Trucks 323 769 -58.0% 19 2,578 3,267 -21.1%
22 Porsche 267 207 29.0% 23 1,257 1,407 -10.7%
23 Jeep 262 126 107.9% 26 1,107 688 60.9%
24 Ford 229 190 20.5% 22 1,326 1,248 6.3%
25 Renault 222 152 46.1% 24 1,257 1,143 10.0%
26 Citroen 192 168 14.3% 25 1,121 524 113.9%
27 Alfa Romeo 154 115 33.9% 27 903 652 38.5%
28 Cadillac 95 64 48.4% 29 591 385 53.5%
29 Jaguar 71 83 -14.5% 31 437 375 16.5%
30 Chevrolet 70 430 -83.7% 28 741 2,930 -74.7%
31 Land Rover 69 54 27.8% 32 399 277 44.0%
32 Dodge 67 42 59.5% 33 308 326 -5.5%
33 smart 54 63 -14.3% 30 468 339 38.1%
34 Chrysler 53 42 26.2% 34 256 392 -34.7%
35 Lotus 27 28 -3.6% 37 111 124 -10.5%
36 Ferrari 26 30 -13.3% 35 169 140 20.7%
37 Hummer 25 28 -10.7% 36 124 198 -37.4%
38 Maserati 18 14 28.6% 38 94 116 -19.0%
39 BMW Alpina 8 6 33.3% 39 52 78 -33.3%
41 Hyundai 7 18 -61.1% 40 38 88 -56.8%
40 Bentley 7 8 -12.5% 44 28 58 -51.7%
42 Saab 6 1 500.0% 43 29 40 -27.5%
43 Lamborghini 3 6 -50.0% 41 35 29 20.7%
44 Rolls Royce 3 3 42 33 6 450.0%
45 Maybach 1 1 45 4 2 100.0%
46 Opel 1 100.0% 46 1 1
48 GMDAT 47 2 -100.0%
47 Bugatti 48
49 Ruf 49
Other 45 29 55.2% 234 221 5.9%
Total 237,364 356,147 -33.4% 1,567,420 2,207,997 -29.0%

Lexus can find solace in the fact that year-to-date it still leads the Japanese premium market with 13,953 units sold. This lead most likely will not last long. A shortage of Made-in-Japan cars could entice Japanese customers to give foreign brands a hard look, followed by their hard cash. As mentioned last week, sales of imported cars rose 31 percent in Japan last month, a trend that is likely to increase as the year goes on.

The Japan Automobile Importers Association shows only the imports. It also shows the cars manufactured abroad and imported by Japanese makers.

The JAIA List. Sales of the imports of all brands in Japan, May 2011

Rank Make May ’11 May ’10 Change YTD ’11 YTD ’10 Change
1 Nissan 3,274 4 81750.0% 20,649 57 36126.3%
2 VW 3,859 3,634 6.2% 18,506 19,232 -3.8%
3 BMW 2,292 2,599 -11.8% 11,411 10,726 6.4%
4 Mercedes-Benz 2,096 2,061 1.7% 11,407 12,130 -6.0%
5 Audi 1,615 1,331 21.3% 8,093 6,592 22.8%
6 Toyota 916 765 19.7% 5,328 4,211 26.5%
7 BMW MINI 916 1,003 -8.7% 4,766 4,218 13.0%
8 Volvo 880 529 66.4% 3,718 2,804 32.6%
9 Peugeot 480 469 2.3% 2,249 2,043 10.1%
10 Fiat 508 362 40.3% 2,053 1,938 5.9%
11 Ford 229 190 20.5% 1,326 1,248 6.3%
12 Porsche 267 207 29.0% 1,257 1,407 -10.7%
13 Renault 222 152 46.1% 1,257 1,143 10.0%
14 Suzuki 320 366 -12.6% 1,155 2,008 -42.5%
15 Citroen 192 168 14.3% 1,121 524 113.9%
16 Jeep 262 126 107.9% 1,107 688 60.9%
17 Alfa Romeo 154 115 33.9% 903 652 38.5%
18 Cadillac 95 64 48.4% 591 385 53.5%
19 Honda 100 23 334.8% 472 674 -30.0%
20 smart 54 63 -14.3% 468 339 38.1%
21 Jaguar 71 83 -14.5% 437 375 16.5%
22 Land Rover 69 54 27.8% 399 277 44.0%
23 Chevrolet 56 60 -6.7% 362 414 -12.6%
24 Dodge 67 42 59.5% 308 326 -5.5%
25 Chrysler 53 42 26.2% 256 392 -34.7%
26 Ferrari 26 30 -13.3% 169 140 20.7%
27 Hummer 25 28 -10.7% 124 198 -37.4%
28 Lotus 27 28 -3.6% 111 124 -10.5%
29 Maserati 18 14 28.6% 94 116 -19.0%
30 Mitsubishi 16 10 60.0% 60 100 -40.0%
31 Aston Martin 12 3 300.0% 58 39 48.7%
32 BMW Alpina 8 6 33.3% 52 78 -33.3%
33 GMC 7 5 40.0% 52 43 20.9%
34 Hyundai 7 18 -61.1% 38 88 -56.8%
35 Lancia 9 5 80.0% 38 23 65.2%
36 Lamborghini 3 6 -50.0% 35 29 20.7%
37 Rolls Royce 3 3 0.0% 33 6 450.0%
38 Saab 6 1 500.0% 29 40 -27.5%
39 Bentley 7 8 -12.5% 28 58 -51.7%
40 Rover 3 4 -25.0% 18 25 -28.0%
41 Morgan 1 0 8 6 33.3%
42 Pontiac 1 1 0.0% 7 4 75.0%
43 Maybach 1 1 0.0% 4 2 100.0%
44 MG 2 1 100.0% 4 3 33.3%
45 Unimog 0 4
46 Buick 0 1 -100.0% 3 3 0.0%
47 Autobianchi 1 0 2 1 100.0%
48 Kia 1 2
49 Mini 0 0 1 2 -50.0%
50 Opel 1 0 1 1 0.0%
51 Saturn 0 1 -100.0% 1 2 -50.0%
52 DAEWOO 0 2 -100.0%
53 GMDAT 0 2 -100.0%
Others 6 5 20.0% 19 29 -34.5%
Total 19,238 14,691 31.0% 100,594 75,967 32.4%

Japanese import trivia: Japan’s largest importer is Nissan. It outdistanced  perennial leader Volkswagen by successfully importing the March from Thailand.  As you can see from the table above, other Japanese makers are cautiously jumping on the import bandwagon.

More Japanese import trivia: Someone found 124 Hummers this year to be shipped to Japan. Cadillac sees huge (percentage) gains.

Even more Japanese import trivia: Bloomberg was sucked-in by the importers list and blew the story big-time. They headlined: “BMW Tops Toyota in Japan as Quake Hits Lexus.”

Macho BMW does not top Toyota. The 916 Toyotas in the JAIA list are Toyota imports.  The JADA list shows that in May, Toyota sold a total of 48,733 units, 21 times the number of BMW. Toyota remained comfortably in the #1 position, whereas BMW held a respectable #13 year-to-date. In May, BMW rose to #10. Further climbs will be tough.

Instead of visiting Tokyo BMW and Audi dealers, Bloomberg could have checked the JADA list when it came out. It would have made for a more meaty story (“Volkswagen, BMW, Mercedes Top Lexus in Japan”) and it also would have spared Bloomberg a considerable amount of facebreaking. A little more study of JADA data would have told Bloomberg that there’s not much of a story anyway:  Lexus had closed-out 2010 with 33,365 units sold. BMW was less than a thousand units behind with 32,426. What do you expect with Japanese factories closed while they are working overtime in Munich and Dingolfing? A miracle?

Things happen fast in the interwebs. “BMW Tops Toyota In Japan” already has 1,530 hits on Google as I type this.  Before we know it, it will be in Wikipedia, where “the threshold for inclusion is verifiability, not truth.”

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23 Comments on “Germans Trump Lexus In Japan. And Bloomberg Blows It Bigtime...”


  • avatar
    philadlj

    Well, BMW outsold Lexus last year too…

    Also, Lexus is still a newbie in its country of origin, as all Lexuses were re-branded as Toyotas in Japan until 2005. I imagine BMW and Benz have a lot more clout there, especially with organized crime.

    What’s really baffling…six Japanese bought new Saabs.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      You have that backwards. Fancy Toyotas were rebadged as Lexus to be sold in the US exclusively until recently. They have always been Toyotas, Lexus was strictly a marketing gimick.

      • 0 avatar
        philadlj

        The fact remains, the Lexus in Japan is newer and less popular than the Lexus in America. I’m unsure whether the cars now sold as Lexuses in Japan sold better or worse when they were badged as Toyotas before 2005 (the Celsior, Aristo, Altezza, etc.)

        It brings up a good point, however: What if Lexus was never a brand, either in Japan or America, and the LS400 was sold in America as a Toyota-badged flagship from the start? Hyundai seems to be taking that bet with the Genesis and Equus. But VW tried – and failed – with the Phaeton.

      • 0 avatar
        aristurtle

        In America, people who buy expensive cars insist that the car have a different brand name than cheap cars. This is not as big of an issue in other parts of the world, although it looks like it’s starting to trend that way.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Unimog? In Japan? Really?

    I guess it takes all kinds…

  • avatar
    benzaholic

    Two things:
    Please tell me the lone Pontiac wasn’t a Vibe, and I didn’t realize that Hyundai was such a non-player in Japan.

  • avatar
    Steven02

    Bertel,
    I read the title of the article differently. Looks like they are saying that BMW beat Toyota’s Lexus brand. And that is what their article says. It doesn’t say that BMW beat the Toyota brand.

    • 0 avatar

      If you read the title differently, then, I’m sorry to say, some remedial English is in order. Or, at the very least, a consultation of the Reuters Handbook of Journalism :

      “as

      An overused conjunction, especially in leads, to link two developments that may have only a distant connection and may occur in different time frames, e.g. Jones issued new threats against Ruritania as Brown considered his options in the region. Use with restraint, preferably when actions are both contemporaneous and closely linked, e.g. Smith leaped out of the window as Jones kicked down the door. As substitutes use and, when, because.”

      “BMW Tops Toyota in Japan as Quake Hits Lexus” usually means: “BMW tops Toyota while quake hits Lexus.” Not true. Even if it would mean “BMW tops Toyota because quake hits Lexus,” it would be wrong. BMW does not top Toyota.

      “BMW tops Lexus as quake hits Toyota” would be kind of right.

      • 0 avatar
        Steven02

        Actually either is correct, especially considering the amount of leeway given to headlines in articles. BMW Tops Toyota (meaning parent company) in Japanas quake hits Lexus (brand that BMW competes with). BMW beat Lexus in Japan. That is what it is saying.

        I mean, I find it funny when you release this headline and criticize someone else’s headline.
        http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/12/america%E2%80%99s-safest-cars-aren%E2%80%99t-american/
        America’s Safest Cars Aren’t American.

        First, the cars weren’t safer. Many American cars were given the exact same rating as the other manufactures. Apparently safer meant that some manufactures that were not American manufactures had more models that had the top safety ranking.

        Second, the article was done at a time when not all models were even tested for the year. The current list stands at…

        GM 12
        Ford/Lincoln 12
        Hyundai/Kia 11
        Toyota/Lexus 11
        VW/Audi 9
        Honda 4

        So, are America’s safest cars now American?

      • 0 avatar

        Oh, give it a rest ….

  • avatar

    I, personally, love Wikipedia.

    Like that quote though.

  • avatar
    wsn

    Well, in a sea of Toyota/Honda/Nissan, it’s not hard to understand why some people would prefer a foreign brand to stand out. It doesn’t imply the import is better or not. It only needs to be different.

    If you really want to compare the engineering merits (as accepted by car buyers), just look at Toyota vs. VW. Toyota beats VW soundly in Japan and US. VW does win in the Chinese sub-compact segment, but loses to Toyota in the midsize segment.

  • avatar
    thesource

    Might be my loading, but your JAIA and your JADA don’t seem to be jiving.

  • avatar
    marc

    Am I reading a different chart?

    I see Lexus up in May ’11 with 2096, handily beating BMW at 1648, MBZ at 1615, and Audi at 916. BMW leds YTD with 14676.

    Still, Lexus seems to be doing quite well at home a few years after its introduction, contrary to what many naysayers thought.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      The charts don’t seem to add up. The top chart has sales of all brands.

      The second chart has sales of imported brands. In that one, sales of BMW was at 2292.

      Top chart, BMW at 1648.
      Bottom chart, BMW at 2292.

      Not sure why there is a difference.

    • 0 avatar
      meefer

      I’m with marc. The chart and the article don’t match up. The corresponding chart on the JADA website has a lot of katakana and I don’t know any Japanese. But the number for lexus is apparently for Hino. The import data for BMW in the second chart exactly matches data for Isuzu sales in the top chart. That’s lightning in a bottle – completely improbable.

  • avatar
    Bryce

    An old fashioned pint is 600ml or .6 litre

  • avatar
    wallstreet

    Bertel,

    Why is Opel such an “exclusive & rare” brand in Nippon? I’m curious as how do their salesmen survive based on the volume?


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