TOKYO – The Japanese auto market grew marginally in 2018 on the strength of so-called mini-vehicles, according to the Japan Automobile Dealers Assn. and Japan Mini Vehicles Assn. statistics.
Minis, a unique Japanese category featuring 0.66L engines, accounted for 36.5% of total new vehicle demand, up from 35.2% in 2017.
In 2018, the total market (all vehicle types) grew to 5,234,165 units.
In the mini-segment, sales increased to 1,924,124 units, up 4.4%, while standard vehicles (cars, trucks and buses 1.0L and above) fell 1.3% to 3,347,943.
Moreover, seven of the 10 top-selling models during the year were minis including the top four, all boxy passenger vans: Honda’s N-Box, Suzuki’s Spacia, Nissan’s Dayz and Daihatsu’s Tanto.
Nissan’s 1.2L Note hatchback, ranked fifth, was the best-selling standard car. Toyota’s Aqua and Prius hybrids ranked second and third among standard cars (seventh and eighth among all models).
Toyota, Japan’s largest automaker, again was the top-selling brand in its home market on sales of 1,508,647 units, claiming a 28.6% market share. It was followed by Honda (747,226 units); Suzuki (714,594); Daihatsu (646,781); and Nissan (616,033).
Including Lexus, Daihatsu and Hino, the latter two wholly owned subsidiaries, the former its luxury brand, Toyota sold 2,281,335 units in 2018. It sold only 37,568 minis, all produced by Daihatsu.
Daihatsu was the leading mini brand on sales of 611,569 units, ahead of longtime market leader Suzuki, which sold 586,867.
In addition to making minis for Toyota, Daihatsu produces them for Subaru. Suzuki makes minis for Mazda. Mitsubishi and Nissan produce them jointly. Honda, whose N-Box mini-car was the runaway leader among all models with 241,870 deliveries, operates independently.
Lexus sales grew to 55,096 units in 2018, an all-time high and making Lexus Japan’s second-largest luxury brand behind Mercedes while passing both BMW and Audi.