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:

Manufacturer 2012 2011 % + / –
2012 2011 Total 5,369,721 4,210,219 27.5
1 1 Toyota 1,646,409 1,157,383 42.3
2 5 Honda 745,205 503,532 48.0
3 4 Daihatsu 677,171 548,279 23.5
4 3 Suzuki 673,138 552,903 21.7
5 2 Nissan 659,855 591,370 11.6
6 6 Mazda 218,361 189,925 15.0
7 7 Subaru 177,722 158,701 12.0
8 8 Mitsubishi 140,493 147,624 -4.8
9 11 Isuzu 59,805 42,096 42.1
10 9 VW 56,191 50,635 11.0
11 10 Lexus 43,657 42,365 3.0
12 12 Hino 42,463 34,238 24.0
13 14 Mercedes-Benz 41,911 33,212 26.2
14 13 BMW 41,102 34,195 20.2
15 15 Mistubishi Fuso 34,715 27,032 28.4
16 16 Audi 24,163 21,166 14.2
17 17 BMW MINI 16,212 14,350 13.0
18 18 Volvo 14,123 11,997 17.7
19 19 DU Trucks 9,104 8,469 7.5
20 21 Fiat 5,667 5,960 -4.9

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:

Brand 2012 2011 Change %
Bentley 216 126 71.4
Bugatti 4 2 100.0
Ferrari 517 386 33.9
Lamborghini 177 99 78.8
Maserati 311 249 24.9
Maybach 13 9 44.4
McLaren 42
Rolls Royce 90 80 12.5

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.