Import Car Sales in Japan Up 31% in May

Posted by Stephen On Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

While Japanese manufacturers saw their domestic sales drop 33.4% in May 2011, sales of non-Japanese import cars rose by 7.9%, with the remaining increase of 31%  the result of greater imports of domestic Japanese brands from their overseas production facilities.

The major winners among the top 10 import car brands are as follows:

  1. Volvo – up 69.7%
  2. Renault – up 45.4%
  3. Fiat – up 40.3%
  4. Porsche – up 29%
  5. Audi – up 21.3%

(Figures are as compared with the same period in 2010.)

The numbers of cars from non-Japanese makers, as well as imports from overseas manufacturing facilities of Japanese makers has now reached an unprecedented level. For example, in April 2011 about 1 in 4 (23.5%) of regular passenger cars sold in Tokyo were of foreign origin, and this level continued the following month with the May figure reaching 21%.

One of the major factors in this increase in overall foreign-origin car imports to Japan has been Nissan’s March manufacturing base in Thailand coming online recently. May 2011 saw Nissan import 3,274 vehicles, as compared with just 4 imported in May 2011.

Although Nissan has recently made a commitment to continue large-scale production in Japan for the Japanese market, it remains to be seen how many other makers will be following their lead in establishing offshore production facilities to service Japanese consumers. As I noted in my previous blog post, premium foreign makers are also seeing an opportunity to grab market share from brands such as Lexus, which could see these marques increasingly infiltrating Japan’s new car market.

Sources: JAIA, Tokyo Shinbun (both Japanese-language)

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