Regime Change In Japan: Honda Fit Dethrones Toyota Prius

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
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regime change in japan honda fit dethrones toyota prius

We had intimated it a few days ago, now it’s official: Toyota’s Prius is no longer primus (or make that ichi ban) in Japan. The hybrid that had been Japan’s best selling car for 20 months in a row had to relinquish the throne to Honda’s Fit.

That according to data provided by the Japan Automobile Dealers Association to The Nikkei [sub]. January JDM sales of the Fit rose 13.9 percent to 14,873 units, those of the Prius sales dropped 38.5 percent to 13,711 units, which put the Prius into second place.

Two factors triggered the change of positions: The Fit received a hybrid version in last October, which is selling well. The hybrid Fit is still a Fit, adding to the overall fitness of the Fit’s sales numbers. And then there’s the enemy within: The recently launched Toyota Vitz (Yaris for most of you) is off to a good start. It sold 11,018 units in January, up 26.4 percent, and took gnawing away on the Prius. The Prius now has to contend with Fit and Vitz.

So it’s Honda followed by two Toyotas. All separated by not much. It’ll be an interesting racing season – of sorts.

Bertel Schmitt
Bertel Schmitt

Bertel Schmitt comes back to journalism after taking a 35 year break in advertising and marketing. He ran and owned advertising agencies in Duesseldorf, Germany, and New York City. Volkswagen A.G. was Bertel's most important corporate account. Schmitt's advertising and marketing career touched many corners of the industry with a special focus on automotive products and services. Since 2004, he lives in Japan and China with his wife <a href=""> Tomoko </a>. Bertel Schmitt is a founding board member of the <a href=""> Offshore Super Series </a>, an American offshore powerboat racing organization. He is co-owner of the racing team Typhoon.

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  • Pete Zaitcev Pete Zaitcev on Feb 04, 2011

    The last year's collapse of sales of Fit in U.S. was a mystery to me. Maybe it's the price? But when I cross-shopped Fit, I found it excellent in every respect, but eventually I bought a car which was MORE expensive, largely for reasons of throwing money away before inflation got to it. I only wish there was a more expensive Fit with a sliding door (while keeping the size). Maybe it's the strong Yen since then (it was in November 2009). Also, Fit had a recall for electric window switches.

    • Nikita Nikita on Feb 04, 2011

      Supply, or lack of it, was a reason for the collapse of Fit sales last year. My dealer had two in stock vs over 100 Civics. American Honda doesnt make much profit due to the dollar/yen issue. US made Civics by comparison have to be a gold mine. Civics, on average sell for more, but the Mexican-made Vera kills the competition in that class here. I mainly cross-shopped the Fiesta, which is not cheaper than a Fit when comparably equipped. Mazda 2 was not yet available. The Yaris felt cheaper and underpowered, even for that class. The OE Dunlop tires limit the Fit's handling, while the stiffness of the current car's structure is a plus.

  • JapanCarAuctionGuy JapanCarAuctionGuy on Feb 04, 2011

    The other issue is that sales of the Prius have been kept artificially high until October 2010 by the Japanese government's "Eco Car" incentive program. It is likely that everyone who was thinking of buying a Prius made sure they did so while this program was in place, so if Prius sales drop off for a while after that, it is not too surprising.

  • Ponchoman49 Ponchoman49 on Feb 04, 2011

    Or the Hobit dethrones Ugly Betty!

  • MattfromOz MattfromOz on Feb 05, 2011

    Hey guys, I have compiled the Top 30 best selling models in Japan in January if you are interested. The other event this month is the arrival of the new Suzuki Solio (looks like an updated Suzuki Ignis) in 9th position. The Top 30 is here: Enjoy! Matt