Two million mini vehicles sales expected in Japan in 2012
Technologies for mini vehicles to be utilized in producing small vehicles overseas
Mini vehicles sold 1,705,364 units in Japan in January-October 2012, accounting for 36.8% of all automobile sales. They are likely to top the 2 million units mark by the year's end for the first time after the last peak year of 2006. Mini passenger cars accounted for 34.0% of all passenger cars sold, the highest percentage ever, and are expected to soon rise above the small passenger cars that accounted for 35.2% in the same period.
A number of factors are seen behind the recent expansion of the mini vehicle market:
(1) The manufacturers are introducing mini vehicles that compete well with non-mini, small vehicles in terms of cabin comfort, maneuverability and equipment, not to mention the affordable prices and maintenance costs, and even fuel efficiency that belongs to hybrid vehicles. Daihatsu and Suzuki both have achieved the 30.0km/liter target in JC08 mode and are now set for the 35.0km/liter mark.
(2) Japanese carmakers are strengthening their mini vehicle production to keep their plants at home busy while transferring non-mini vehicle production to overseas to minimize the effects of the yen's high appreciation (this trend is evident especially with Honda whose export figures are dropping very quickly).
(3) Honda, Daihatsu and Suzuki plan to apply their low fuel consumption and low cost production technologies, acquired through the production of mini vehicles to non-mini, small cars that they produce and sell overseas including Daihatsu products supplied to Toyota.
Mini vehicles are currently produced by four passenger car manufacturers and sold by the all eight passenger car companies. The best-selling mini vehicle in April-August and October 2012 was Honda's N BOX, including N BOX+, launched in December 2011, and Honda's share in the mini vehicle market in Japan rose from 8.5% in the previous year to 15.5%. This is helping to activate the mini vehicle market while bringing in growingly fierce competition.
To become more competitive, Honda is concentrating its mini vehicle production and development to the Suzuka Factory while Daihatsu is relocating its development teams to the Kyushu district where its main plant is located for producing mini vehicles.
(Note) Vehicles with an overall length of up to 3.4 meters, width of up to 1.48 meters, and height of up to 2 meters that are powered by engines with total displacement of less than 660cc are classified as "mini vehicles" under the Japanese vehicle regulations, and are eligible for preferential taxation. Because of the affordable prices and maintenance costs, mini vehicles today account for nearly one third of all automobile sales in Japan. This report collectively refers to small, midsize and large size vehicles other than the mini vehicles as non-mini vehicles.
Honda (1): mini vehicles and HV sales increase in Japan (posted in January 2012)
Daihatsu plans to increase mini vehicle sales 19% to 650K units in 2012 (posted in March 2012)