By on November 1, 2012

Japanese subsidies for eco-cars expired in September, and analysts predicted a hard landing due to pulled-forward sales. In a way, this happened, but the fall was not as hard as expected. In September, sales on all automobiles in Japan were down  3.4 percent.  This month, they are down 5.7 percent. The fall would have been harder, would it not have been cushioned by the resilience of a Japanese oddity, the Kei car.

Regular vehicle sales Japan October 2012
Manufacturer Oct ’12 Oct ’11 YoY YTD ’12 YTD ’11 YoY
Daihatsu 233 441 -47.2% 2,536 2,578 -1.6%
Hino 2,876 2,794 2.9% 34,917 27,724 25.9%
Honda 20,006 36,355 -45.0% 385,469 314,810 22.4%
Isuzu 3,621 2,937 23.3% 49,844 33,617 48.3%
Lexus 3,128 4,308 -27.4% 37,528 36,328 3.3%
Mazda 9,154 11,457 -20.1% 145,832 124,357 17.3%
Mitsubishi 5,376 4,063 32.3% 51,657 46,955 10.0%
Mitsubishi Fuso 2,555 2,931 -12.8% 29,124 21,289 36.8%
Nissan 34,753 33,631 3.3% 440,766 372,341 18.4%
Subaru 8,170 5,785 41.2% 84,891 62,118 36.7%
Suzuki 4,945 6,025 -17.9% 77,982 64,927 20.1%
Toyota 114,405 122,208 -6.4% 1,389,389 935,800 48.5%
UD Trucks 707 855 -17.3% 7,593 6,638 14.4%
Other 15,614 14,137 10.4% 194,343 165,396 17.5%
Total 225,543 247,927 -9.0% 2,931,871 2,214,878 32.4%
Data courtesy Japan Automobile Dealers Association

Sales of regular vehicles were down 9 percent in Japan, with Honda taking the biggest hit of Japan’s big three.  This according to the Japanese Automobile Dealer Organization JADA.  You may read elsewhere that the Japanese car market is down by that number, but it is not. A full 37 percent of Japanese auto sales do not show up in this statistic.

Mini vehicle sales Japan October 2012
Manufacturer Oct ’12 Oct ’11 YoY YTD ’12 YTD ’11 YoY
Suzuki 41,494 39,263 5.7% 504,300 392,994 28.3%
Daihatsu 44,372 52,148 -14.9% 585,797 445,466 31.5%
Mitsubishi 4,744 6,074 -21.9% 69,913 79,039 -11.5%
Subaru 2,610 6,493 -59.8% 63,535 66,967 -5.1%
Honda 23,885 10,306 131.8% 264,788 106,336 149.0%
Mazda 4,009 3,822 4.9% 45,545 38,606 18.0%
Nissan 9,769 13,225 -26.1% 133,560 119,063 12.2%
Toyota 2,903 1,845 57.3% 37,926 2,061 1740.2%
Other 4 8 -50.0% 41 37 10.8%
Total 133,790 133,184 0.5% 1,705,405 1,250,569 36.4%
Data courtesy Japan Mini Vehicles Association

Sales of that Japanese  foible, the mini vehicle, or Kei car, actually were up slightly, 0.5 percent to  133,790 units,  the Japan Mini Vehicles Association says.  The 0.6 liter  midget mobiles have seen an amazing resurgence recently. 1.7 million Keis were sold in Japan through October. Sales in the segment were driven by Honda’s N-Box. In September, nearly 20,000 units changed hands. The car received support from the N-Box +, and today from the N-one, a retro-styled Kei that took its cute cues from the N360, the first mass-produced Honda Kei, which was introduced in 1967.

Total vehicle sales Japan October 2012
Manufacturer Oct ’12 Oct ’11 YoY YTD ’12 YTD ’11 YoY
Daihatsu 44,605 52,589 -15.2% 588,333 448,044 31.3%
Hino 2,876 2,794 2.9% 34,917 27,724 25.9%
Honda 43,891 46,661 -5.9% 650,257 421,146 54.4%
Isuzu 3,621 2,937 23.3% 49,844 33,617 48.3%
Lexus 3,128 4,308 -27.4% 37,528 36,328 3.3%
Mazda 13,163 15,279 -13.8% 191,377 162,963 17.4%
Mitsubishi 10,120 10,137 -0.2% 121,570 125,994 -3.5%
Mitsubishi Fuso 2,555 2,931 -12.8% 29,124 21,289 36.8%
Nissan 44,522 46,856 -5.0% 574,326 491,404 16.9%
Subaru 10,780 12,278 -12.2% 148,426 129,085 15.0%
Suzuki 46,439 45,288 2.5% 582,282 457,921 27.2%
Toyota 117,308 124,053 -5.4% 1,427,315 937,861 52.2%
UD Trucks 707 855 -17.3% 7,593 6,638 14.4%
Other 15,618 14,145 10.4% 194,384 165,433 17.5%
Total 359,333 381,111 -5.7% 4,637,276 3,465,447 33.8%

Consolidating regular cars with Keis,  the big picture looks like this. The market is 5.9 percent lower than in October 2011. Despite a little, and less than expected weakness in September and October, both Honda and Toyota  have grown their sales by more than 40 percent through October. Toyota’s group sales including  Daihatsu and Hino are up 45.1 percent.

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8 Comments on “Japan In October 2012: Kei Cars Cushion Blow...”


  • avatar
    th009

    Import brands up 10% in a total market that’s down 6% (or 9%, depending on how you count). A terrible closed market, isn’t it?

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Good choice of pic – I like how Honda decided to look back to the N360 for inspiration for the new N-One. Simple, logical, unfussy, and a hint of cute. Too bad it doesn’t have hood-mounted side mirrors.

  • avatar
    L'avventura

    I’ve always felt that kei-cars were irrelevant to the rest of the world. They’ve always been a regulational anomaly; limited in dimensions, limited to 660cc and 64 hp, built cheap, often unattractive.

    However, I think the Honda N-One could be a great basis for an affordable world car. One of the things that Honda is proud of in this car is that it acceleration of the 660cc turbo is equivalent of a 1.3L Honda Fit while still getting 63 mpg (JC08). Its 1,800lb curb-weight can be thanked.

    In addition the car is quite handsome in a retro sense. Its the closest thing Honda can have to a Mini, VW Bettle, or Fiat 500 retro-chic rival.

    Clearly, for export to the world, a larger engine (800c or 1L) and foreign factory would be needed (Mexico, Thailand, India, etc). Honda has an opportunity to make truly handsome affordable car. With the right unneeded pork removed, like the LCD touch screen, complex turbo-660cc with CVT, etc. This car could be sold for less than $10k with the right configuration. It would be an ideal car for emerging markets like SE Asia, India, as well as congested developed world countries like Europe.

    • 0 avatar
      niky

      Don’t forget. The wildly popular Maruti Alto is Kei car based. And many of Japan’s neighbors go gaga over secondhand Keis. Small. Cute. Cheap to buy and incredibly cheap to run… What’s not to like?

      Suzuki and Daihatsu already export or co-build cars overseas with bigger motors. Honda has the chance to do the same, if ever they wanted to.

    • 0 avatar
      CelticPete

      I think its probably the best car Honda makes now. When automakers stick with what they do well in their home country I feel you get the best results. So sure they should bring it over..

      I’d imagine the problem is crash worthiness though.. If it isn’t – well it could be a cool small car especially with like a 100hp engine (hopefully a turbo for the torque).

  • avatar
    BigMeats

    God, that Honda is cute!
    I wish we could import those as lawn-toys.

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