2018 (Q3) Japan: Best-Selling Car Manufacturers, Models and Mini Cars

January to September 2018: Toyota was Japan’s largest carmaker, the Nissan Note the best-selling model and the Honda N-Box the favorite mini car of the Japanese.

Electric Hondas at Geneva 2018

During the first three quarters of 2018, Toyota, Honda and Suzuki were again the top-selling carmakers in Japan with weak Toyota sales putting a damper on the overall market. The Nissan Note was the favorite car model of the Japanese followed by the Toyota Aqua and Toyota Prius. The top-selling mini car (kei) was again the Honda N-Box with the Suzuki Spacia moving into second place.

Japanese Vehicle Market in 2018 (Q1-Q3)

New vehicle registrations in Japan contracted by 0.9% during the first nine months of 2018 to 4,023,608 motorized vehicles including passenger cars, buses and cargo vehicles. It is the second consecutive year that the Japanese new vehicle market exceeded 4 million vehicles during the first three quarters of the year.

Car sales in Japan were weaker for most months during 2018 but market conditions improved during the year and may turn positive towards the end of the year.

Best-Selling Car Manufacturers in Japan in 2018 (Q1-Q3)

The top-selling vehicle manufacturers in Japan during the first nine months of 2018 according to JADA were:

Q1-3/2018 % Change 17/18 Q1-3/2017 Q1-3/2016
4,023,608 -0.9 4,060,584 3,776,384
1 Toyota 1,136,986 -6.6 1,217,950 1,157,914
2 Honda 565,410 2.4 552,181 536,995
3 Suzuki 549,537 6.0 518,344 480, 908
4 Nissan 490,833 -1.1 496,295 401, 157
5 Daihatsu 486,940 1.3 480,788 443, 303
6 Mazda 173,695 4.3 166,479 161, 408
7 Subaru 114,287 18.1 139,502 117, 130
8 Mitsubishi 83,249 15.2 72,280 64, 306
9 Isuzu 58,539 -8.7 64,112 61, 343
10 Hino 53,435 2.7 52,039 47,595
11 Mercedes-Benz 48,935 -4.2 51,083 50, 402
12 Lexus 43,162 39.4 30,957 40, 467
13 Volkswagen 38,487 3.4 37,205 36, 760
14 BMW 36,342 -6.4 38,832 37, 633
15 Mitsubishi Fuso 31,899 -3.7 33,120 34, 246
16 Audi 20,816 -0.5 20,916 21, 529
17 BMW Mini 19,189 3.3 18,584 17,790
18 Volvo 12,922 7.7 11,999 10,825
19 Jeep 8,523 13.7 7,494 7,098
20 Peugeot 7,696 27.1 6,057 5,628
Source: JADA

Top-Selling Carmakers in Japan in 2018 (Q1-Q3)

The top-ten vehicle manufacturers in Japan maintained their relative rank positions from a year ago with most brands experiencing growth. The notable exception was Toyota, which due to its size dragged the whole market down.

However, Toyota easily remained the largest vehicle manufacturer in Japan during the first nine months of 2018 despite being the worst performing top brand. Sales of Toyota vehicles contracted by 6.6% – well below the market average of -0.9%.

Honda and Suzuki both increased sales in Japan with Suzuki again narrowing the gap to Honda. Honda had only two models in the top ten and clearly needs a new hit to maintain its position.

Nissan sales were slightly weaker despite the Nissan Note being Japan’s favorite car model. Daihatsu came within 4,000 cars of Nissan while Mazda also had a strong performance.

Subaru and Mitsubishi were the most improved top brands in Japan thus far in 2018 while Isuzu was the worst performing brand in the top 20 with sales down by 8.7%. Truck maker Hino rounded out the top-10 list.

Mercedes-Benz remained the top-selling foreign car brand in Japan despite weaker sales. Lexus was the most improved of the top 20 carmakers in Japan with sales up 39% to close the gap to Mercedes and to move up from 15th a year ago to 12th.

Volkswagen maintained 13th place with slightly stronger sales while BMW slipped from 12th with weaker sales. Mitsubishi Fuso also slipped one position.

The other top 20 brands were all imported cars. Audi sales were flat while Minis and Volvos sold in higher numbers.

Jeep moved up one rank position with sales up 14% while Peugeot sales increased by more than a quarter to reenter the top 20 list at the expense of UD Trucks that slipped to 21st with sales down by 9%.

Best-Selling Car Models in Japan in 2018 (Q2 & Q3)

The top-selling car models in Japan during the six months April to September 2018 according to JADA were:

Manufacturer Model Q2-Q3/2018 Q2+3/2017 % Change 17/18
1 Nissan Note 63,303 68,441 -7
2 Toyota Aqua 62,220 62,537 0
3 Toyota Prius 54,388 78,707 -31
4 Nissan Serena 47,472 37,503 27
5 Toyota Vitz 46,213 44,005 5
6 Toyota Corolla 46,114 35,485 30
7 Toyota Rumi 44,414 36,458 22
8 Honda Fit 41,929 48,488 -13
9 Toyota Voxy 40,746 39,988 -1
10 Honda Freed 39,668 51,652 -23
Source: JADA

Note: These statistics exclude mini cars (kei)

Top Ten Best-Selling Car Models in Japan in 2018 (Q2 & Q3)

Only one of the top ten favorite car models of the Japanese remained at the same rank position during the second and third quarters of 2018 compared to the same period in 2017 but eight of the same models were again in the top-ten list.

The Nissan Note was the favorite car of the Japanese during the period April to September 2018 (and year to date) despite weaker sales. The Note was second last year.

The Toyota Aqua moved up from third to second despite flat sales largely due to the very weak performance of the Toyota Prius. Prius sales were down by almost a third and the model thus slipped from first to third.

Sales of the Nissan Serena were up by more than a quarter to move the model from 10th to fourth. The Toyota Vitz improved two positions while the evergreen Toyota Corolla entered the top-ten list (again) from 13th a year ago with the strongest sales improvement of any top model. Sales of the Toyota Rumi were similarly strong and the model entered the top-ten list from 11th a year ago.

Honda Fit sales continued to weaken and the top-selling Honda in Japan slipped from sixth to eighth while the Honda Freed slipped from fifth to tenth with sales down by nearly a quarter.

Sales of the Toyota Voxy were flat but sufficient to maintained ninth place similar to a year ago. In contrast, the sales of the Toyota C-HR were down 40% to slip from fourth to 13th while the Toyota Sienta slipped from eighth to 11th with sales down by 10%.

Best-Selling Mini Cars in Japan in 2018 (Q1-Q3)

The top-selling mini cars models (Kei) in Japan during the period January to September 2018 according to Zenkeijikyo were:

Brand Model Q1-3/2018 Q1-3/2017 % Change 17/18 Q1-3/2016
1 Honda N-BOX 185,265 157,795 17.4 142,696
2 Suzuki Spacia 116,336 82,208 41 63,132
3 Nissan Dayz 108,547 113,641 -4.5 77,098
4 Daihatsu Tanto 104,092 112,696 -7.6 124,861
5 Daihatsu Move 103,427 105,037 -1.5 65,006
6 Suzuki Wagon R 86,542 88,385 -2.1 64,103
7 Daihatsu Mira 79,989 74,054 8 56,991
8 Suzuki Alto 61,452 71,128 -13.6 78,345
9 Honda N-WGN 51,054 60,666 -15.8 67,328
10 Suzuki Hustler 49,729 58,546 -15.1 66,726

Mini cars (kei) remained by far the most popular cars in Japan with the top mini car models by far outselling standard cars. The top-ten list of best-selling kei cars remained remarkably stable this year with no new models entering the top-ten list.

The Honda N-Box remained the best-selling car model in Japan with sales still increasing. However, the Suzuki Spacia was the rising star with sales up 40% and the small Suzuki improving from sixth to second – that was the only rank change on the list compared to a year ago. The Daihatsu Mira was the only other top-ten kei car with higher sales thus far in 2018.

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.