Japanese Car Sales Fall To 33 Year Low
New car sales in Japan have dropped for the fifth straight year, to their lowest level since 1975. Thomson Financial (via Forbes) cites a Japan Automobile Dealers Association study which points to high gas prices as the prime culprit in recent sales losses. Even Japan's 660cc kei car category is feeling the hurt, dropping for the twelfth straight month. Japanese automakers have been fighting sliding sales aggressively, rolling out new models and pouring money into marketing gimmicks like Toyota's Auto Mall . But there's nowhere to run in such a saturated market. Honda, Nissan, Subaru and Suzuki posted modest sales gains in March, while Lexus dropped nearly 18 percent, Isuzu dropped 12 percent, and Mitsubishi lost nearly 14 percent of sales. The biggest losers? Truck manufacturers, who saw between 12 and 27 percent losses. If economic misery loves company, America and Japan could be best of friends.
It's interesting to me that the Aveo and Cobalt are down 45 and 26 percent, respectively; yet, the Vibe is up 29 percent (all figures March volume changes). People just don't associate Chevy with desirable economy car. Chevy light and heavy truck sales figures indicate a bloodbath in March... Escalade triplets: Eek! Escalade down 25, ESV down 25, EXT down 41; and SRX down 20 percent over Feb.
The Vibe is up, because it is new, because the vehicle it is based on, the Toyota Matrix, is new, because the vehicle it is based on, the Toyota Corolla, is new (whew). The Aveo and Cobalt are old, so they are down. And, yeah, there was a total bloodbath in full-sized pickups. Both Ford and Chevy were down by about a quarter, although Toyota was up (due to the fact that the new Tundra was just coming out last March), and the GMC Sierra was basically flat (for no reason I can figure out). Finding sales figures for privately owned Chrysler (for the Dodge Ram) is a pain in the butt and I haven't bothered.
I prefer month on month numbers pure, rather than daily sales because - as someone mentioned on the other stream - a lot of dealers sell cars EVERY DAY OF THE MONTH. So it seems less honest to parse the numbers out by "selling days" (which I'm presuming means "everything but Sunday") when a lot of dealers sell on Sunday, i.e. every day of the month! But I grant you, no matter how the numbers are parsed, sliced, diced and their entrails examined, March was not a great month for anyone. Maybe a "good month" relatively speaking for Hyundai, Nissan, Volkswagen and Honda, and quality small cars in general. (Of course, I can't work out how "quality small cars" and "Volkswagen" can be in the same category, personally).
ScottGSO is right. At least the US car market will recover sooner or later, that's a certainty. But it's equally certain that the Japanese market will not: their decline will continue as far as the eye can see.