Posts Tagged ‘prius alpha’

Toyota Aqua Jumps to #2 with Prius Maintaining #1 Crown

Posted by Stephen On Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Toyota’s new Aqua (called the Prius C in overseas markets) hybrid made a dramatic leap to number 2 in Japan’s April new car sales rankings, up from number 4 the previous month. But it will come as no surprise that the number one crown was retained for the 11th month by the Prius (including the Prius Alpha and PHV versions as well as the classic Prius model under this umbrella model name).

Considering April 2011’s new car sales were devastated in the aftermath of the triple earthquake / tsunami / nuclear disasters, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that Prius sales were 4.5 times higher year on year at 21,906 units sold. The Aqua added another useful 18,481 sales to add a decent boost to Toyota’s overall results.

In other non-Toyota news, Honda’s NBox blasted past the perennial favorite, the Honda Fit, to take third place in the rankings for the first time.

Sources: Asahi, Nikkei (both Japanese-language)

Hybrids Now 16% of Market in Japan as Prius Wins Annual Sales Crown Again

Posted by Stephen On Friday, April 6th, 2012

Let’s get this Prius story out the way first so we can get to the really interesting stuff: Toyota’s Prius is number one for something or other …  again. This time, it’s retained it’s crown as Japan’s best-selling car in the 2011 financial year (April 2011 through end of March 2012) making it a third straight win in a row.

OK, nuff said. Now let’s get behind the headlines to where the real juicy stuff is:

First up, there is the fact that hybrid cars in Japan now account for 16% of all new car sales. To put that in perspective, hybrids make up just 2.2% of US new car sales *. That’s over 7 times as many hybrids sold in Japan, proportionately!

Of course, a tail wind of government incentives helps out some, but the gap between these figures demonstrates the huge gulf in driving culture and conditions between Japan and the US. (Compare the mix of vehicles in the Japan new car sales chart below with the Top 20 Vehicles chart for the US from the WSJ and you’ll see what I mean.)

And here’s something else you won’t find in the US — kei cars. While America loves big, Japan goes for small. Look at the rankings and you will spot that half of the top ten are kei vehicles.

And out of these keis  one in particular is really motoring: Check out the Daihatsu Mira in the stats below. Sure, it’s in 4th place, but the acceleration …  up 99.5% over last year? Not even a Veyron can go that quick.

Must be their much-vaunted Mira e:S hybrid-level fuel economy that costs just 800,000 Yen that’s moving that model up. The Mira could easily take out the WagonR 3rd in 2012 if the current trend continues.

Here’s the top 10 new car models sold in Japan in the 2011 financial year:

  1. Toyota Prius = 310,484 units (9.6% increase)
  2. Honda Fit = 234,432 units (23.8% increase)
  3. Suzuki WagonR = 174,225 units (1.7% decrease)
  4. Daihatsu Mira = 171,301 units (99.5% increase)
  5. Daihatsu Move = 144,398 units (4.7% increase)
  6. Daihtasu Tanto = 139,332 units (17.5% decrease)
  7. Toyota Vitz = 125,663 units (1.9% decrease)
  8. Nissan Serena = 93,755 units (31.1% increase)
  9. Suzuki Alto = 92,992 units (2% decrease)
  10. Honda Freed = 90,414 units (0.7% decrease)

* This 2.2% figure was calculated by comparing the figure for hybrid car sales from (below) with the 2011 total new car sales from Fox (below).

Sources: Asahi (Japanese) Fox News,

Prius Wins Japan’s Fuel-Efficiency Rankings for 6th Year (Except It Doesn’t Really) …

Posted by Stephen On Saturday, March 31st, 2012

Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport announced Friday that Toyota’s Prius had won the latest 2011-12 fuel-efficiency rankings, handing a 6th straight victory for the Prius.

Nine of the top 10 regular passenger cars (kei cars are not included in this ranking) were hybrids — the exception being Mazda’s Demio with its Skyactive tech.

Position Maker Model KM/L in JC08 Mode) KM/L in 10/15 Mode Transmission Car Type
1 Toyota Prius 32.6 38.0 CVT Hybrid
2 Lexus CT200h 30.4 34.0 CVT Hybrid
3 Honda Insight 27.2 31.0 CVT Hybrid
4 Toyota Prius α 26.2 31.0 CVT Hybrid
4 Honda Fit 26.0 30.0 CVT Hybrid
6 Honda Fit Shuttle 26.0 30.0 CVT Hybrid
7 Mazda Demio 25.0 30.0 CVT ICE
8 Toyota Camry 23.4 26.5 CVT Hybrid
9 Honda Insight Exclusive 23.2 26.5 CVT Hybrid
10 Honda CR-Z 22.8 25.0 CVT Hybrid

But wait a minute. There’s something fishy going on… A surprising omission here is the Toyota Aqua (Prius C outside Japan) which should surely have made the list with its fuel consumption figures.

In fact, the Aqua would have topped the list with its economy figures outstripping the Prius at 35.4 KM/L in JC08 mode. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport states that vehicles had to be on sale in the 2011 calendar year, and the Aqua did just that — scraping in right at the end by going on sale on December 26th.

So perhaps this isn’t really the 6th straight win for the Prius at all? Following the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport’s own rules, I hereby pronounce the real winner as the Toyota Aqua.

Toyota Aqua beats Prius in real Japan fuel-efficiency rankings

So the Prius loses its crown in my reckoning. But Toyota shouldn’t waste too many tears over it: Add the Aqua to the mix, and you have Toyota products filling out all top-three spaces.

Sources: Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport , Car Watch, Toyota Aqua site (all Japanese-language)

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)

New Honda Freed Scores 20k Orders in 2 Weeks – 63% are Hybrids

Posted by Stephen On Saturday, November 12th, 2011

Honda’s new compact minivan Freed went on sale in Japan on October 28th but has already racked up more than 20,000 orders in the first two weeks – over twice as many as Honda’s sales target. Not only that, but 63% of these are for the hybrid version.

The overwhelming interest in the hybrid version could well be due to the fact that it is the only hybrid on offer in the  high roof compact class, and yet pricing starts from just 2.149 million Yen – a number comparable with the considerably less roomy Prius Alpha.

Honda Freed Hybrid Minivan

The Prius Alpha has a cabin length of 1.91 meters with an overall interior volume of 3.54 cubic meters, whereas the Freed has an interior that is not only 71.5 centimeters longer, but also has an overall interior volume that at  4.78 cubic meters is 35% bigger. The larger Honda gets a respectable 24 km/l (56.5 MPG), but it cannot compete with the Prius Alpha, which gets 31 km/l (72.9 MPG).

And let’s not forget the Freed’s sliding rear door. If you have ever parked in narrow Japanese parking spaces, you will know what a boon this is compared with the Prius Alpha’s standard hinged doors. Personally, this sliding door alone would swing it for me if I was looking for a compact hybrid minivan.

Of course, this is a case of horses for courses. The Honda may not have the extremely frugal economy of the Toyota, but at the same time it is considerably more car for the money. rapid uptake of both the Prius Alpha and now this Honda Freed is ample proof of market demand in Japan for hybrids of all kinds is very strong.

Source: Searchina

Prius Sales in Japan Breach 1 Million Mark

Posted by Stephen On Friday, September 16th, 2011

Like many Japanese companies, Toyota has used its home market as a test market for new products and technologies prior to releasing them in the rest of the world, and the forerunner of hybrid power trains, the Prius, is no exception. First put on sale in 1997, as of August 2011, this model alone has sold over 1 million units in the Japanese domestic market.

In recent years sales have been boosted by favorable government incentives, and most recently by the inclusion of the new Prius Alpha (Prius V in the US) minivan model under the Prius name in the sales statistics. However, these figures are no mean feat and represent just under a third of all Toyota hybrid models ever sold.

It will be interesting to see both whether Nissan or Mitsubishi with their EV technology gain such a boost from the Japanese market, or whether such a boost is even necessary or available in 2011, with Japan’s economy continuing to stagnate, and emerging economies such as China becoming the springboard for new products.

Source: Kankyo Business (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)

Japan Car Auction Finds: Toyota Prius Alpha G (2011)

Posted by Stephen On Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

The Toyota Prius Alpha has been in the news a lot lately. Not only is it the first new iteration of the standard Prius model since its launch in 1997, but the strength of the Prius brand is such that the minivan Prius Alpha has generated such interest that production is completely sold until well into summer 2012. You can’t get your hands on one of these for love or money. Or so I am told.

Which makes it somewhat odd that someone would be thinking of selling one of these in the used car auctions in Japan. After all, there is surely a premium to be made selling these to a consumer wanting to jump the line – someone with the temerity to actually want to have his or her car delivered this year, and not next.

The only reason why you might not want to do this –  if you were a Japanese Toyota dealer, for example – would be if this would then result in a big penalty from your manufacturing parent for engaging in such uncouth behavior. Which is why you might try selling it in the auto auctions to someone else who has a bit more freedom to play with the pricing when selling on to the end customer.

This is a 5-seater G model which has a list price of 2.8 million Yen. On the other hand, the start price for bidding on this one is 2.680,000 Yen, which is only 120,000 Yen below the full list price. With just 13 km on the odometer, it is a new car with just delivery mileage and is fully worthy of the “S” grade given it by the auction inspectors.

I don’t think it will take much to push the bidding up over the list price, which will just serve to confirm the levels of demand for this car.

Toyota Prius Alpha G (5-seater) 2011 in Japan car auction - front

Toyota Prius Alpha G (5-seater) 2011 in Japan car auction - auction sheet (auction inspector's report)

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)