2011 Full Year Best-Selling Car Manufacturers and Brands in Japan

Toyota easily remained the strongest car brand in Japan in 2011 despite a very weak new passenger vehicle market. Nissan, Suzuki, and Daihatsu outsold last year’s second-placed Honda.

Toyota Prius
© Toyota Motor Co

In 2011, Toyota remained Japan’s strongest vehicle manufacturer by selling double as many cars as its competitors Nissan, Suzuki, Daihatsu, and Honda. German car producers Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Audi were the strongest import auto brands. Cargo vehicles and imported cars sold well in Japan in 2011.

2011 was always going to be a dismal year for the Japanese new-vehicle market. New passenger vehicle registrations in Japan were already weak during the second half of 2010 and the trend continued early in 2011 before the effects of the tsunami caused even more havoc with not only the car market but vehicle production as well. Flooding in Thailand also interferes with Japanese car production.

The total Japanese new vehicle market in 2011 was 4,210,220, down 15.1% from 2010.

The Top 20 Motor Vehicle Manufacturers in Japan in 2011 (Full Year)

According to vehicle sales statistics (including passenger cars, cargo vehicles, and buses) released by JADA on January 11, 2012, the best-selling car brands in Japan in 2011 were:

Total 2011 Total 2010 % Change
Total 2011 4,210,220  4,956,136 -15.1
1 Toyota  1,157,383  1,531,722 -24.4
2 Nissan  591,370  645,369 -8.4
3 Suzuki  552,903  619,517 -10.8
4 Daihatsu  548,279  608,510 -9.9
5 Honda  503,532  647,289 -22.2
6 Mazda  189,925  223,747 -15.1
7 Subaru  158,701  176,698 -10.2
8 Mitsubishi  147,624  176,065 -16.2
9 VW  50,635  46,707 4.0
10 Lexus  42,365  33,365 27.0
11 Isuzu  42,096  44,021 -4.4
12 Hino  34,238  29,164 17.4
13 BMW  34,195  32,426 5.5
14 Mercedes-Benz  33,212  30,936 7.4
15 Mitsubishi Fuso  27,032  24,761 9.2
16 Audi  21,166  16,854 25.6
17 BMW MINI  14,350  11,338 26.6
18 Volvo  11,997  7,894 52.0
19 UD Trucks  8,469  8,170 3.7
20 Peugeot  6,137  6,021 1.9

Source: JADA

Overview of the Japanese Car Market in 2011

The earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011, not only hit an already very weak car market in Japan but also severely interrupted production of vehicles by most manufacturers – in some cases for several months. Flooding in Thailand also affected Japanese car production. Cargo vehicle producers, including Toyota, Hino, Mitsubishi Fuso, and Nissan, saw strong growth.

Toyota remained Japan’s strongest passenger car, heavy cargo vehicle, and bus producer in 2011 despite being the weakest major performer overall. However, even less dominant than in recent years, Toyota still managed to sell more than double the number of vehicles second-placed Nissan did. Last year’s number two, Honda, struggled with production problems after the tsunami and slipped behind Suzuki and Daihatsu to fifth place overall in 2011.

Lexus, Toyota’s luxury car brand, was the only major Japanese car manufacturer to increase the number of passenger cars sold in 2011 in Japan. Lexus became the tenth strongest vehicle manufacturer in Japan during 2011 at the expense of Isuzu, which slipped to eleventh.

Foreign car brands performed relatively better with German cars particularly popular. Volkswagen remained the most popular imported car brand in Japan and the only foreign vehicle manufacturer on the top-ten list. Other German luxury car manufacturers Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Audi also had a strong year in Japan in 2011.

Many foreign brands managed to increase the number of cars sold in Japan in 2011 but the total numbers are still far weaker than for the Japanese car manufacturers. Volvo, up 50%, had the best year of any large car brand in Japan in 2011.

In 2011, Japan’s favorite car models remained the Toyota Prius and Honda Fit (Jazz in many foreign markets).