Japan In January 2011: New Car Sales Down 21.5 Percent

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
japan in january 2011 new car sales down 21 5 percent

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.

Join the conversation
  • Tallnikita Tallnikita on Feb 01, 2011

    If only Honda reworked that hideous triple-chin on the Fit, Japanese sales would gain 10% back. What a great car, what an ugly front that simply prevents me from even considering it.

    • Daga Daga on Feb 01, 2011

      That's a picture of the US one. If the snout doesn't give it away, the window sticker does. The JDM one is much cleaner, sloping down in line with the windshield rank rather than making a bulb on the front like this one.

  • Obbop Obbop on Feb 01, 2011

    What about the article from awhile back mentioning how the young whippersnappers of today's Japan are foregoing marriage, salaryman-type life-styles, shanty owning AND personal conveyances? To what extent do life-style changes within the human herd of Nippon affect auto sales? Seems that roller skates may be the best way to scoot around Japans crowded boulevards. Unless it snowed but with all those people they should have ample folks to shovel the sidewalks clear pretty quick like.

  • Tparkit Tparkit on Feb 01, 2011

    From the 100-yen stores to the people who can no longer afford to turn their heat on in the winter, Japan is a slow-motion trainwreck. We might as well take a good long look, because we're riding the same rails to the same genteel, self-inflicted poverty.