By on February 4, 2011

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 #3, gnawing away on the Prius. The Prius now has to contend with Fit and Vitz.

So it’s Honda #1, followed by two Toyotas. All separated by not much. It’ll be an interesting racing season – of sorts.

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14 Comments on “Regime Change In Japan: Honda Fit Dethrones Toyota Prius...”

  • avatar

    Toyota is doing pretty well. Hey Honda also has a good product. They focused on one of if not their biggest strength, small fun to drive quality dignified cars. Toyota has been more detached from practical joy.

  • avatar

    Ichi ban ? Wasn’t that a product Joey advertised on Friends ?

  • avatar

    No surprise here. The Fit is just an all around decent package: small outside, huge inside, go-kart handling, good fuel economy, good build quality, reliability, durability, minimal depreciation and (at least with the manual transmission) decent acceleration.
    The Fit is not outstanding in any parameter, but definitely outstanding over all because it does so many things well. It takes away many of the excuses for “needing” an SUV because it would suit the needs of most SUV owners except for a) off-road capabilities, b) towing capability and especially c) status/”compensation” for something. And I don’t imagine most of the status-seekers take their SUVs off-road or use them for towing anything.

    • 0 avatar

      I must agree.  Honda’s Fit is quite possibly the most practical and frugal vehicle on the road today for the average consumer.   Expensive?  Maybe, but I doubt it.

    • 0 avatar

      I have a 2008 Fit manual and I absolutely love it. For an urban environment, I cannot think of a better vehicle. It is big inside, handles great, is cheap to run, has excellent fit and finish, can take a ton of cargo and is an absolute blast to drive. In three years it has not has a single warranty issue. I paid $16k for it here in Canuckistan and I could sell it for a flash for $12k. That is cheap, fun, economical, versatile driving.

      I do prefer the Gen 1 Fit as it is a more go-kart like experience, but my sister recently bought a Get 2 Fit and she also loves it, albeit for different reasons.

      We recently had a 2011 Festiva rental for a week. Although a nice car, it was NOT as good as my ’08 Fit. The engine was loud and coarse, the bottom seat cushion was too short and the stereo controls confounding. The DCT, while interesting, more than a few times could not decide the correct gear to be in. Nor was cargo capacity anywhere near a Fit. The Festiva is not worth $2k more than a Fit.

      My two cents anyway.

    • 0 avatar

      Go-kart handling my ass – the new one drives like a small minivan, body roll and all. The other three subcompacts (Mazda2, Fiesta, and Yaris) felt quite a bit more nimble. You want sporty, go for Mazda2.
      The packaging of the Fit is great, though. I’d say, it’s most direct competitor is Mazda5 – a great car for someone who needs the versatility and cargo space, but doesn’t need a 300hp, 18mpg motor and 2-ton weight of the current full-size minivans. A very sensible transport for people who don’t pack light.
      Honda’s hybrid designs are lame, though. OK with a manual gearbox as a start-stop system, but mated to a CVT it’s a complex disaster and not nearly as efficient, reliable, or elegant as Toyota/Ford system. No wonder the new Insight fails to sell well.

    • 0 avatar

      The first model year of the current Insight was the single most reliable car sold in the US during 2009 according to Consumer Reports. It would be illogical to accuse them of bias when you consider that they hated it and didn’t recommend it, but it is still hard to reconcile their most reliable rating with claims that the Honda hybrid system is unreliable.

      I haven’t driven the Mazda 2, but the current Fit is still a much more enthusiast oriented car than the damp sponge that is the Fiesta. The Fiesta reminded me of terrible Focus rental cars I’ve had in the past 2 years while the Fit reminded me of the Jetta MKII I used to own and love.

    • 0 avatar

      Go-kart handling my ass – the new one drives like a small minivan, body roll and all.

      If you reread my post, you will find that I was referring the the Generation 1 Fit. The new one is not as much as a fun to drive experience but it does have better cargo room. As I said in my previous post, you will find my sister loves her 2010 Fit “for different reasons.”

      Perhaps it is better to read a post a couple of times before you start flaming them.

  • avatar

    “small fun to drive quality dignified cars”
    Thank you for articulating what I’m really looking for in a car.  Sadly, this is also what I’ve never managed to find in an “American” car and what drove me to foreign brands in the first place.

  • avatar

    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.

    • 0 avatar

      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.

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar

    Or the Hobit dethrones Ugly Betty!

  • avatar

    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:

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