2012 (Full Year) Japan: Best-Selling Car Brands and Manufacturers

Toyota was again the top carmaker in Japan in 2012. Honda was the second best-selling car producer in Japan while Nissan slipped to fifth.

Toyota Wheel
Toyota – again the top-selling vehicle maker in Japan – Photo: Toyota Mo Co

In 2012, Toyota comfortably remained the strongest vehicle producer in Japan. Honda regained second place followed by Daihatsu, Suzuki, and Nissan. New vehicle registrations in Japan increased by 27.5% in 2012. All carmakers, with the exception of Mitsubishi, saw positive growth in the Japanese market in 2012. German cars were the most popular foreign brands while European sports and luxury cars remain popular in Japan too.

The Japanese Vehicle Market in 2012

After the disastrous year of 2011 for Japan – tsunami and consequently production, supply, and electricity problems – 2012 was always expected to be a good year for the Japanese car market.

In 2012, new vehicle registrations in Japan totaled 5,369,721 (+27.5%) units – over a million more than the 4,210,219 vehicles registered in 2011. These figures include passenger cars, cargo vehicles, and buses.

Best-Selling Vehicle Manufacturers in Japan in 2012

According to car sales statistics released by JADA, the top 20 best-selling carmakers in Japan in 2012 were:

Manufacturer20122011% + / –
1515Mistubishi Fuso34,71527,03228.4
1717BMW MINI16,21214,35013.0
1919DU Trucks9,1048,4697.5

Changes in the Japanese Car Market in 2012

In 2012, Toyota continues to lead the Japanese car market with sales up 42%. Honda regained second place (+48%) from fifth last year when Honda’s production facilities suffered more interruptions than some of its competitors.

Toyota and Honda dominated the market to the extent that all other top-twenty manufacturers, except Isuzu and Fuso actually underperformed the general market. Only Mitsubishi and Fiat actually saw a small decline in the number of cars sold in Japan in 2012 compared to 2011.

Daihatsu narrowly outsold Suzuki in Japan in 2012 to take third place while Nissan slipped from second place last year to only the fifth strongest vehicle producer in Japan in 2012 despite a 112% increase in sales.

Mazda, Subaru, and Mitsubishi maintained their relative positions from last year. Mitsubishi was the only major manufacturer to have actually seen a decline in sales in Japan in 2012 compared to 2011.

Isuzu enjoyed strong growth (+42%) allowing the cargo-vehicle producer to leapfrog car producers Volkswagen and Lexus. VW was again the strongest imported car brand and the only foreign brand on the top ten list.

Further down the top-twenty list of best-selling car brands in Japan in 2012, Mercedes-Benz overtook BMW, which has been the stronger brand in Japan for the past three years. Fiat swapped positions with Peugeot by selling 18 more cars in Japan in 2012.

A few interesting numbers much further down the list of car sales statistics as released by JADA:

Brand20122011Change %
Rolls Royce908012.5

The Japanese clearly have not lost their love of European sports and luxury vehicles. Most super luxury brands outperformed the overall market comfortably.

Hybrid cars remain very popular in Japan. The Toyota Prius was again Japan’s favorite car in 2012 followed by the Toyota Aqua, a smaller hybrid-only vehicle. Most of the other top-selling car models in Japan are available in hybrid versions too.

About the author:

Henk Bekker

Henk Bekker is a freelance writer with over 20 years of experience in online writing. His best-selling cars website has been reporting car sales statistics since 2008 with classic car auction prices focusing on the most expensive automobiles sold at public auctions in the past decade. He also owns the travel websites European-Traveler.com and Lake Geneva Switzerland. Henk holds an MBA from Edinburgh Business School and an MSc in Finance from the University of London.