2014 (Q1) Japan: Best-Selling Car Manufacturers and Models

Car sales in Japan increased by 20% during the first quarter of 2014. Toyota is still the leading brand while the Aqua narrowly outsold the Honda Fit.

Subaru Viziv 2 Concept at Geneva Auto Salon 2014

The first quarter of 2014 saw new vehicle registrations in Japan increase by a fifth ahead of a sales tax increase in April. All manufacturers achieved higher sales at the start of 2014 in Japan with expensive foreign brands doing particularly well – Mercedes-Benz sales increased by 50% with Porsche and BMW sales in Japan up by more than 40%. Toyota remains Japan’s leading motor vehicle manufacturer despite underperforming the market while Honda solidified its second place with a 40% increase in sales. The Toyota Aqua narrowly outsold the Honda Fit to remain Japan’s favorite car model ahead of the Prius.

The Japanese Vehicle Market in 2014 (Q1)

New vehicle registrations in Japan increased during the first three months of 2014 by 20.7% to 1,844,662 vehicles – these figures include passenger cars, buses, and trucks. All top 25 manufacturers recorded sales growth in Japan during the first quarter of 2014 with only two failing to achieve double-digit percentage growth.

Strong growth in the Japanese car market at the start of 2014 was widely expected, as sales tax in Japan is increasing on April 1, 2014, from 5% to 8%. A sharp cut back in car sales is expected in the second quarter of the year.

Japanese consumers are traditionally very sensitive to increases in consumption tax – the last tax hike in 1997 led to a deep recession. The tax rate is due to increase further to 10% in October 2015.

Best-Selling Car Manufacturers in Japan in 2014 (Q1)

New vehicle registrations during the first three months of 2014 in Japan according to sales statistics released by JADA were as follows:

Manufacturer Q1 / 2014 Q1 / 2013% Change
 Total 1’844’662 1’528’00820.7
1Toyota 501’798 440’45013.9
2Honda 299’180 214’14939.7
3Nissan 253’341 213’12318.9
4Daihatsu 222’630 183’94921
5Suzuki 220’142 193’53113.8
6Mazda 81’882 66’51223.1
7Subaru 59’910 53’88511.2
8Mitsubishi 45’998 41’78010.1
9VW 23’023 18’14826.9
10Isuzu 21’936 16’81930.4
11Mercedes-Benz 17’834 11’79151.3
12Hino 17’668 13’66329.3
13Lexus 14’854 12’19121.8
14BMW 14’230 10’01142.2
15Mitsubishi Fuso 13’199 8’50455.2
16Audi 8’987 7’44120.8
17Volvo 4’367 3’29332.6
18BMW MINI 4’218 4’0374.5
19UD Trucks 3’315 2’1585.2
20Fiat 2’540 1’19013.4
21Jeep 1’868 1’20155.5
22Peugeot 1’744 1’56211.7
23Ford 1’506 1’12533.9
24Renault 1’482 96952.9
25Porsche 1’431 99943.2

Top-Selling Car Brands in Japan in 2014 (Q1)

Toyota easily maintained its position as Japan’s leading vehicle manufacturer at the start of 2014 despite underperforming the broader market. In contrast, Honda achieved an increase in sales of nearly 40% to strengthen its hold on second place.

Nissan slightly underperformed but maintained its third place – a year ago, Nissan was only around a thousand vehicles behind Honda but the gap has now grown to almost 46,000 cars.

During the first quarter of 2014, Daihatsu’s sales increased inline with the market but allowed Toyota’s sister company to overtake the underperforming Suzuki.

There were no other position changes amongst the top-ten best-selling brands in Japan in 2014 (Q1) although Subaru and Mitsubishi both underperformed the market by around 10%.

Mercedes-Benz sales in Japan grew by 51% during the first three months of 2014 to overtake truck maker Hino and, more significantly, Lexus. BMW and Porsche also achieved strong growth while Audi sales increased inline with the broader market. However, total foreign car sales in Japan remain very low.

Top-10 Best-Selling Car Models in Japan in 2014 (Q1)

The ten most popular car models in Japan during the first quarter of 2014 according to car sales statistics released by JADA were:

BrandModel January February March Q1 / 2014
1ToyotaAqua 22’885 23’973 31’146 78’004
2HondaFit 26’869 18’303 31’921 77’093
3ToyotaPrius 20’162 23’501 28’274 71’937
4NissanNote 10’334 12’237 17’319 39’890
5ToyotaCorolla 10’868 11’335 15’654 37’857
6NissanSerena 9’910 10’496 10’966 31’372
7ToyotaVitz 6’732 8’386 11’890 27’008
8NissanX-TRAIL 6’616 7’554 9’093 23’263
9SubaruImpreza 5’262 5’360 9’632 20’254
10HondaVezel 6’235 4’257 8’649 19’141

Note these figures exclude Kei minicars.

The Toyota Aqua managed to remain Japan’s favorite car during the first three months of 2014. However, the new Honda Fit has been selling very well and was less than a thousand cars behind the Aqua largely due to shortages in February.

The larger Toyota Prius remains very popular in Japan with the top-three best-selling car models noticeable ahead of the rest. The Nissan Note, evergreen Toyota Corolla, Nissan Serena and Toyota Vitz are regulars on the top-ten best-sellers list in Japan.

The Nissan X-Trail and Subaru Impreza are more commonly in the 10 to 20 grouping. The Honda Vezel – a crossover – is the only truly newcomer having been launched as a completely new car in December 2013.

Sales of European Luxury and Sports Cars in Japan in 2014 (Q1)

The Japanese have long been fond of fast European luxury and sports cars despite the strictly enforced speed limits and endless traffic jams. The impending tax increase in April probably helped sales in the top bracket too.

Mercedes, BMW and Porsche all saw very strong sales increases in Japan during the first quarter of 2014. However, more exclusive sports and luxury cars did very well too.

Manufacturer Q1 / 2014 Q1 / 2013% Change
 207 14443.8
Maserati 317 94237.2
Bentley 93 43116.3
Lamborghini 55 525.8
Rolls Royce 45 2673.1
McLaren 30 2050

VW failed to sell any Bugatti Veyrons in Japan thus far in 2014, although none of the three sold in 2013 was in the first quarter last year either. However, Volkswagen managed to more than double sales of Bentleys in Japan during the first quarter of 2014 while Lamborghini sales increased by three cars.

Maserati more than doubled its sales in Japan while lovers of Ferraris also got their orders in early. Rolls Royce sales also improved drastically while McLaren sold 50% more cars in Japan at the start of 2014 compared to a year ago.

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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.