TOKYO – The Japanese import car market declined in 2019 after three consecutive years of growth to 348,316 units, according to the Japan Automobile Importers Assn.
Foreign brands, almost entirely passenger cars, accounted for 86% of import sales, which in turn accounted for nearly 6% of new-vehicle demand in Japan during the year, which fell to a 3-year low of 5.2 million units.
Foreign-brand import sales totaled 299,439 units, down 3.2% from the previous year’s total. Japanese brands, at 48,877 units, were down 14.0%.
In its 2019 sales report published Jan. 9, the association reports Mercedes-Benz was the top import brand for the fourth consecutive year on sales of 66,553 units, followed by BMW with 46,814 and Volkswagen with 46,794.
In 2018, Volkswagen was second and BMW third.
Rounding out the top 10 were Audi, Mini, Toyota, Volvo, Jeep, Peugeot and Nissan.
Combined BMW Group sales including BMW, Mini, Rolls-Royce and Alpina totaled 71,075 units, down 8%. The Volkswagen Group, including VW, Audi, Porsche and Bentley, sold 78,531 units, down 9%, while Mercedes-Benz and Smart sales declined 2% to 68,521.
Of the top 10 brands, only Volvo, Jeep and Peugeot registered growth.
U.S. automakers (excluding BMW U.S. Mfg. Co.) sold 15,196 units, up 9% year-on-year, with Jeep, the brand leader, registering 17% higher sales of 13,354 units. An unspecified number of Jeeps are produced in Toluca, Mexico.
General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler (excluding Jeep) sold only 1,842 cars and trucks combined.
Meanwhile, Japanese brands accounted for 14% of import sales with Toyota accounting for the largest share at 21,931 units, mostly trucks produced in Southeast Asia, followed by Nissan (9,394), Honda (9,181), Suzuki (4,744) and Mitsubishi (3,182).
By model, BMW’s Mini was the best seller for the fourth consecutive year on sales of 23,813 units. It was followed by the Volkswagen Golf, Mercedes C-Class, Mercedes A-Class and Volkswagen Polo.
The association did not make a 2020 forecast.