Posts Tagged ‘fit shuttle’

Car of the Year Japan 2012 Top Ten Contenders Announced

Posted by Stephen On Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

Japan’s own Car of the Year (COTY) top ten contenders have been recently announced. The overall winner of the 32nd annual prize will be announced at the Tokyo Motor Show at Tokyo’s Big Sight on December 3rd, 2012.

Here, in no particular order,  is the shortlist for this year’s award:

  • Prius Alpha (Toyota)
  • Leaf (Nissan)
  • Fit Shuttle (Honda)
  • Demio Skyactiv (Mazda)
  • Mira e:S (Daihatsu)
  • Passat – sedan and variants (VW)
  • C Class – sedan and stationwagon (Mercedes)
  • 1 Series (BMW)
  • 508 (Peugeot)
  • S60 / V60 (Volvo)

Now, if I were a betting man – which I am not really, but let’s imagine I was for a moment – which of these would I put my money on to win?

First of all, it is disappointing to see that a number of models on this list are derivative rather than genuine breakthrough products. Yes, I am looking at you, Prius Alpha and Fit Shuttle. However, good (and successful) these cars may be in filling their particular niches, their derivative nature makes them unworthy of the overall crown. Good? Yes – but not Great.

So what is the stand-out quality that impresses this year?

Well, whereas 2010 was the year of the electric car, with the Leaf and i-MiEV capturing the attention, this year the focus seems to have shifted to squeezing more out of a traditional ICE arrangement – and in doing so keeping additional costs to a minimum. Now, if that is the zeitgeist then there are two cars on this list that clearly reflect this. And one of them that has really made an outstanding impression in this regard.

So which cars are on my shortlist of two?

The Demio Skyactiv and the Mira e:S.

Coming first to the Demio, the thing about it is that it is not so much the car, but the engine technology that grabs the headlines. After all, Mazda is starting to apply Skyactiv principles and technology across its model range – even as far as bringing it to diesel models in the future too.

If there’s a “Car Technology of the Year” award, then Skyactiv should definitely be right up there in contention. But the Demio as Car of The Year? I am not so sure.

The Mira e:S, on the other hand, has been nothing but a sensation: The first kei car to break the headline 30 km / l figure, putting it almost on par with super-frugal (and complex) hybrids such as the Prius Alpha. On the other hand, Daihatsu has achieved all of this in a package that costs just a smidgen more than a third of the price of a base model Prius – the e:S range starts at a mere 800,000 Yen.

You can tell Daihatsu is onto something here: Japan’s new car buyers love it. The e:S is selling like hot cakes and was the impetus behind an incredible 30% leap in Daihatsu’s October sales.

So there you have it: For my money, there is one clear winner- and that is the Daihatsu Mira e:S.

Daihatsu Mira e:S - could this be Japan's Car of the Year 2011 - 2012?

(But tune in early in December to find out what the so-called experts think when they announce the real winner!)

Source: Car of The Year Japan (Japanese)

Prius Gets Alpha Boost & Lafesta Soars in August Japan New Car Sales

Posted by Stephen On Saturday, September 10th, 2011

Toyota’s Prius maintains its position at the head of Japan’s new car sales rankings in August, once again edging out Honda’s Fit.

Although Toyota will want to make much of the fact that the Prius also garnered more sales in August 2011 than at the same time last year, halting the year-on-year sales decline that has been continuing for the 12 months previous, the fact is that much of this gain has been due to the addition of belated deliveries of the minivan Prius Alpha.

Yes, that’s right: Even though the Prius Alpha is only loosely related to the regular Prius hybrid, the sales figures treat the Prius and Prius Alpha as a single model type. Which also explains Honda’s Fit maintaining its number two position. For it also has benefited from the addition of a model that is similar in name, although quite different in other respects – the Fit Shuttle.

Just why JADA insists on counting these quite different models as one is a mystery. Toyota gets to retain its bragging rights as top of the heap, but at the same time the interesting question as to how much the Prius Alpha is eating into standard Prius market share is obscured.

The biggest winner this month, though, is surely the Nissan Lafesta that has seen its sales revived a whopping 253% over the same month last year thanks to a much-needed update that I reported on a while back.

Here are the stats for regular passenger (non-kei cars):

Model Maker No. of Cars YoY %
Prius Toyota 24998 112.3
Fit Honda 16868 97.7
Vitz Toyota 10257 80.1
Serena Nissan 6628 96.8
Corolla Toyota 5962 55.7
Demio Mazda 5868 65.6
Ractis Toyota 4787 94.6
Paso Toyota 4633 60.9
Voxy Toyota 4322 64.4
March Nissan 3642 74.9
Noah Toyota 3556 59.9
Freed Honda 3389 30.2
Note Nissan 3337 53.6
Wish Toyota 3175 68.1
Sienta Toyota 3117 84.6
Juke Nissan 2505 127.7
Solio Suzuki 2414 N/A
Cube Nissan 2359 53.2
Lafesta Nissan 2341 253.9
Tiida Nissan 2261 53.3
Swift Suzuki 2179 62.1
CT200H Lexus 2155 N/A
Vanguard Toyota 2038 74.1
Mark X Toyota 1975 61.1
Sai Toyota 1917 75.7
Stepwagon Honda 1802 22.3
Isis Toyota 1799 67.1
X-Trail Nissan 1708 47.6
Impreza Subaru 1641 94.5
Legacy Subaru 1634 62.4

Sources: JADA, Nikkei (Japanese)

Hybrid No Longer King? Japan’s Industry Insiders Vote Skyactiv

Posted by Stephen On Saturday, September 3rd, 2011

Toyota’s Prius has long been king of the hill when it comes to what the Japanese refer to as “Eco Cars”. The Eponymous hybrid has been leading sales rankings for a long time now, and that has even held true despite the disappearance of major tax incentives promoting these kinds of cars in the fall of 2010.

However, a survey for the Japanese magazine Nikkei Trendy by research group SC-Abeam Consulting of 500 people involved in vehicle manufacturing, parts supply or sales has found a significant shift from pure economy and environmental friendliness to the more practical concern of cost. The survey asked these 500 respondents to choose from a pool of 24 hybrid and fuel-efficient gasoline engine cars. No EVs were included in the survey pool.

Nikkei Trendy Magazine October 2011

For example, the Prius is in second place, but followed closely by the Daihatsu e:S (pronounced “Ees”). As I have blogged before, the new e:S is the most fuel-efficient kei car on the market, according to this report, able to achieve 32KM per liter. Although the Prius is rated at 38KM per liter, the thing is that the e:S achieves its frugal performance with a regular ICE set up, resulting in a list price of 800,000 Yen, which is about 1/3 of a typical Prius.

So which model leads the rankings? The Prius Alpha, perhaps? No. How about the Fit Shuttle Hybrid? No, the car attracting the most consumer interest isn’t a hybrid at all.

It’s the new Mazda Demio Skyactiv. At 30km per liter, the 1.3 liter Skyactiv is just as frugal as the Honda Fit Hybrid, and only very slightly shy of the Prius Alpha’s 31KM per liter. On the other hand, it uses a traditional internal combustion engine without the extra complexity of a hybrid system. With a list price of 1.4 million Yen, it is 190,000 Yen cheaper than the base Fit Hybrid.

As you can see in the rankings below, the Demio is well ahead of the pack.

Ranking Votes Model KM / L
1 269 Mazda Demio Skyactiv 30
2 170 Toyota Prius 38
3 147 Daihatsu e:S 32
4 111 Toyota Prius Alpha 31
5 55 Honda Fit Shuttle Hybrid 30
6 37 Lexus CT200h 34
7 35 Honda CR-Z 25
8 29 Fit Hybrid 30
9 25 Nissan Fuga Hybrid 19
10 22 VW Polo TSI 20
10 22 Fiat 500 Twin Air 21.5

Although they have had a global reputation as early adopters of new technology and gadgets, the Japanese have been living in depressed economic times since the early 90s and the latest round of contraction followed by March’s earthquake has made the Japanese consumer particularly conservative. As such it is hard for your average Japanese to justify the extra cost of a complex hybrid system when they can get similar levels of performance from a more traditional set up.

In order to justify their higher prices, hybrid cars and other alternative technology cars of the future are going to have to offer a lot more bang for your Yen to differentiate themselves from this new wave of efficient ICE cars.

Also, with the current talk of an extended double-dip recession in the works, I would not be surprised if a similar attitude did not also percolate through to other markets round the world. Automakers watch out – expensive tech is not going to trump the simple yet efficient solution any time soon.

Source: Nikkei Trendy (Japanese)

Honda Fit Takes 2011 First Half Honors, Edging Out Toyota’s Prius

Posted by Stephen On Thursday, July 7th, 2011

Honda’s Fit is claiming top honors for new car sales in Japan for the first half of 2011. The addition of the hybrid version to the Fit family in October 2010, as well as Honda’s low-interest loans were the main reasons for its success according to analysts. Things would have looked even better for Honda if the earthquake back in March had not pushed back the introduction of the larger Fit Shuttle to June.

Although the Fit’s sales were down 2.1% over the same period in 2010, this was a very modest drop compared with Toyota’s Prius, which tumbled 51.1% and into second place in the rankings. To be fair, the Prius is obviously only available as a hybrid, whereas the Fit has a range of regular ICE models in addition to the hybrid.

There were some models in the top ten that actually increased sales over the same period last year, despite the affects of the earthquake disaster. The key factor in their success seems to be that all of them were upgraded at the end of 2010, according to analysts. Personally, I think it is interesting to note that each of these are small cars – some of them kei cars – which have had greater appeal in these difficult economic times. These models that made gains were Daihatsu’s Move (at number 3), Toyota’s Vitz (at number 5) and Honda’s Life (at number 9).

Toyota’s Prius took the sales crown for June, with numbers down 39% from the same month last year, but which represents a great fight back after seeing sales down about 80% in May. Honda’s Fit came in second, and Suzuki’s Wagon R in third.

In future months it will be interesting to see how the Prius minivan-type Prius Alpha, and also Honda’s Fit Shuttle impact these rankings.

Source: Nikkei (Japanese-language)

New Honda Fit Shuttle Hybrid Poised To Steal Prius Alpha Customers

Posted by Stephen On Friday, June 17th, 2011

As I reported at the end of May, Honda delayed the launch of the new Fit Shuttle from March 18th until mid-June due to both parts shortages and electrical power shortages in the Tokyo region. The move of production to the Suzuka factory in Mie Prefecture (central Japan), is now complete and the new models were launched on June 16th.

You can read more about the details of spec and equipment in the Honda press release here, but for me the story inside the story is the fact that the hybrid significantly undercuts Toyota’s Prius Alpha – the Honda starts at 1.81 million Yen, whereas the Prius Alpha’s cheapest version is 2.35 million Yen – and Honda seems to have thought through production issues more clearly than Toyota by moving production to Suzuka prior to launch.

The Fit Shuttle has a target of 4,000 sales per month, but with Prius Alpha customers being told that they could have to wait up to one year for delivery (meaning that they are likely to miss the EcoCar tax break which finishes March 31 2012), surely the significantly cheaper Fit Shuttle Hybrid is going to make some inroads into Toyota’s market share?

Honda already is geared up for sales of 4,000 cars per month (rather than the Prius Alpha’s target of 3,000), and Honda has also had the foresight to try to squelch production issues before they occur, so it seems that they are in a much better position to deal with strong demand than Toyota has been.

The Prius Alpha is a great car, but then you take into account a 500,000 Yen saving on list price, additional saving from the EcoCar tax break, and the simple fact that delivery time can be measured in weeks rather than years will certainly make the Fit Shuttle Hybrid a compelling package for many potential Prius Alpha customers.

Honda already has 7,000 pre-launch Shuttle orders on the books, and I, for one, am expecting Shuttle Hybrid to leapfrog the Prius Alpha in the medium term at least.

Watch the launch press conference below (in Japanese):

Source: Nikkei

Honda Fit Shuttle Hybrid Coming June – 1.81 Million Yen

Posted by Stephen On Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

Honda is launching its answer to the Prius Alpha (Prius V in the US) in June – the Fit Shuttle Hybrid. The underpinnings are from the popular Honda Fit, and the price is a very reasonable 1.81 million Yen. It retains the 5-seat design of the Fit, but adds extra space in the load-carrying area.

Honda Fit Shuttle Hybrid

Honda was going to be launching this model on March 18th, but made the snap decision to postpone the launch following parts shortages caused by the earthquake one week prior to the launch date. The power supply shortages in the area supplied by troubled power company TEPCO also forced Honda to move production from Saitama to Suzuka in the central area of Japan.

The Fit Shuttle Hybrid comes in at 1.81 million Yen, which is only 200,000 Yen more than the price of the basic ICE version of the car. However, it is substantially cheaper than the most inexpensive Prius Alpha, which starts from 2.35 million Yen. The Shuttle Hybrid manages a respectable 30 km / liter, which is only 1 km / liter shy of the Prius Alpha’s equivalent figure.

With the Fit already sitting at the head of the sales charts, I suspect that the Prius Alpha is going to find it hard to compete when there is such a big disparity in price, but not performance. Unless you want a 7-seater, it will be hard to make a good argument for the Prius Alpha and, on top of that, Toyota already has pre-launch orders for the Prius Alpha backed up to the end of the year.

Delaying the launch to shift production to Suzuka may have been a masterstroke on Honda’s part to capture market share.

Sources: Kyodo, Jiji, Goo