TOKYO – The Japanese import-car market grew for a third consecutive year in 2018 to 366,266 units, according to the Japan Automobile Importers Assn.
Import sales grew 4.3% and accounted for nearly 7% of 5.3 million new vehicles delivered during the year. The market grew 0.7% to reach its highest level since 2014.
In its 2018 sales report published Jan. 10, the association reported Mercedes-Benz was the top import brand for the third straight year on sales of 67,531 units, followed by Volkswagen (51,961) and BMW (50,982).
In 2017, Volkswagen ranked third and BMW second.
Rounding out the top 10 were Audi, Mini, Toyota, Volvo, Honda, Nissan and Jeep.
Honda, which sold fewer than 3,000 overseas-built cars in 2017, moved into the top 10 on the strength of U.K.-built Civic hatchback and Civic Type R models. Peugeot fell from 10th to 11th.
Combined BMW Group sales including BMW, Mini, Rolls-Royce and Alpina totaled 77,449 units. Volkswagen Group, including VW, Audi, Porsche and Bentley, sold 86,037 units. Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz and Smart brands totaled 70,019.
Of the top 10 brands, Volkswagen, Mini, Volvo, Toyota, Honda and Jeep all registered growth.
Foreign brands accounted for 84.5% of sales as volume grew marginally to 309,495 units, up 1%, with cars (both foreign and Japanese brands) comprising 93.5% of the mix.
U.S. automakers (excluding BMW US Mfg.) sold 13,941 units, up 10%, with Jeep, the U.S. brand leader, registering 13% higher sales of 11,438 units.
General Motors, Ford and Chrysler sold only 2,512 cars and trucks combined.
Meanwhile, Japanese models imported from overseas accounted for 15.5% of the sales total with Toyota at 22,978, mostly trucks, followed by Honda (12,194); Nissan (11,438); Suzuki (4,442); and Mitsubishi (3,117).
In total, deliveries of foreign-built Japanese brands grew to 56,861 units, up 26.5%.
By model, the BMW Mini, Volkswagen Golf and Mercedes C-Class ranked one, two and three for the third consecutive year. Including Mini, BMW had five of the top 10 models including the 2-Series, 3-Series, 5-Series and X1.
The association did not make a 2019 forecast.