2011 Car Sales Around The World: Japan Down Around 14 Percent, Pending Imports

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

Japanese allegedly bought 221,960 vehicles in December, up from 179,666 a year earlier, data provided by the Japan Automobile Dealers Association shows. Japan’s domestic sales of new cars, trucks and buses are up 23.5 percent compared to December 2010. This brings the calendar year total to 2.69 million vehicles, down 16.7 percent. Don’t write this into your Excel sheet just yet, because it is only part of the intricate Japanese sales saga.

Sales of mini cars and trucks are reported by a different body, the Japan Mini Vehicles Association. The kei car group says that 127,246 units were sold in December, up 17.6 percent from December of the prior year. For the calendar year, sales of 1.52 million kei cars are reported, down 11.9 percent.

So can we add 1.52 million to the 2.69 million, give Japan sales of 4.21 million and get it over with? No, we can’t.

Imports to the allegedly closed Japan are tallied by yet another body, the Japan Automobile Importers Association. This august association does not have its numbers ready. They are promised for January 11. They should add another 200,000 or thereabouts cars to the total.

When the numbers are in, we expect the total market to be down around 14 percent for the year, with both full-sized and kei suffering from the tsunami effects, and imports to be up by around 10 percent.

Once we have all numbers, we will give you a complete run-down, by brand, even if we have to go over there and count them ourselves.

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  • L'avventura L'avventura on Jan 05, 2012

    Japan reintroduced green-car subsidies recently, which accounts for the 23% jump in December (third-straight 20% month). This bodes well for 2012. Come March 2012 the year-over-year increases should be dramatic as Tsunami/Quake sales over those months are obviously low, and 2012 sales should be bolstered by new car subsidies as well as folks slowly replacing cars lost or damaged during the quake and rebuilding spigot that finally seems to be pumping money into the economy. The Toyota Aqua/Prius C looks to be the perfect car, perfectly timed. Eligible for green-car subsidies, brand-new, and the right size and price for the Japanese market. I wouldn't be surprised if it takes the Japanese sales crown once production ramps up.

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    • L'avventura L'avventura on Jan 05, 2012

      @Bertel Schmitt The last quarter of 2010 looks tame in comparison to sales tanking a few months later in March. We have near 40% drop in march, and over 50% drop in April this last year due to the quake/Tsunami. 2010 was also a good year compared to 2009. A lot of the subsidies for fuel-efficient cars are already back, and are extended, and this last December there are talks of reduction of vehicle weight and acquisition taxes as well. JAMA expects if those tax reductions are put in place, 920,000 more vehicles would be sold in Japan (no small number). Obviously, this tax break is designed to bolster Japanese manufacturers as they move overseas so that can maintain a minimum production level (JP Morgan predicts that 75% of 'Japanese cars' globally won't be made in Japan by 2015). Given that the consumption tax is expected to rise from 5% to 8%, and then 10% in the next few years. These tax brakes are seen as crucial and if passed should lift Japanese sales past the 5 million mark that 2010 almost hit.

  • Alluster Alluster on Jan 05, 2012

    "Imports to the allegedly closed Japan" So you think there are no restrictions for any car manufacturer to sell in Japan? If true, why does a South Korean built Sonic cost around $24,000 in Japan while a Japan built Yaris cost $14,000 in the US? Or the Japan built Versa cost $10,000. Why is the sonic about 50% more expensive in Japan than the equivalent Fit or Yaris. In fact the Sonic is much more expensive than the Hybrid Fit, Prius C!! Unless GM got greedy and priced the Sonic at such high levels, none of that makes any sense. EDIT : Oh BTW, can you explain why Hyundai/Kia who have been on a tear in every market have completely abandoned Japan? The argument that no one else makes Kei cars won't fly anymore. I am sure all manufacturers would have developed vehicles catering to the local market, unless there were other factors/restrictions that will make their efforts not worthwhile. Isn't it funny that the worlds Number 1, Number 2, Number 5, Number 6 auto companies have absolutely no presence in the worlds third largest auto market. Excluding Kei cars, there were still around 2.5 Million regular cars sold, all fair game for VW, GM, Ford and Hyundai.

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    • Bertel Schmitt Bertel Schmitt on Jan 05, 2012

      If you could graciously provide us with the actual restrictions, we will publish them. This "we can't sell our stuff, therefore there must be discrimination somewhere" logic does not fly. Japan has ZERO percent import duty on cars. See Lies, Damn Lies, And The Closed Japanese Car Market.