2021 (Half Year) Japan: Best-Selling Car Brands, Models, and Kei Minicars

First semester 2021: Toyota was the leading car brand in Japan, the Toyota Yaris the best-selling car model, and the Honda N-Box the favorite kei minicar.

Toyota Harrier © Toyota

The Japanese new car market expanded by 11.6% during the first half of 2021 with total vehicle sales just below 2.5 million vehicles. Toyota remained the largest carmaker in Japan with sales approaching pre-pandemic levels. The Toyota Yaris and Roomy were the top-selling car models in Japan thus far in 2021. The Honda N-Box was again the top-selling kei minicar model in Japan during the first semester of 2021.

Japan Car Sales Statistics: 2021 — Q1, Half Year; 2020 (Full Year) — Brands, Models, Minicars; 2019 (Full Year) — Brands, Models, Minicars

New Vehicle Market in Japan in 2021 (First Half)

Total new vehicle registrations in Japan during the first half of 2021 expanded by 11.6% to 2,464,586 vehicles. Although the market was around a quarter of a million vehicles bigger than the 2,207,775 vehicles sold during the first six months of 2020, it was still almost 300,000 vehicles smaller than in pre-pandemic years. This number includes all standard passenger cars, commercial vehicles, and buses but excludes Kei minicars.

Best-Selling Vehicle Brands in Japan in 2021 (First Semester)

New vehicle registration data for Japan released by JADA for the period January to June 2021 showed the following as the top 20 brands:

Brand2021 HY2020 HY% 20/21
12Mercedes Benz27,57324,99410.3
14Mitsubishi Fuso17,50418,904-7.4
Source: JADA

Top-Selling Car Brands in Japan in 2021 (Half Year)

All the best-selling car brands in Japan increased sales during the first six months of 2021 but the gains were unevenly spread. Toyota easily remained Japan’s largest carmaker and gained market share with sales up 14.6%. Toyota sales in Japan had largely recovered to pre-pandemic levels.

Suzuki and Daihatsu both strongly outperformed the broader market with sales up 18% and 17% respectively. As a result, Suzuki was the second largest car brand in Japan during the first six months of 2021 and Daihatsu moved into third.

Honda, traditionally the second largest car brand in Japan, slipped to fourth with sales flat and only around 2,500 cars more than during the first semester of 2020. Honda was the worst-performing top-ten brand in Japan thus far in 2021.

Nissan, Mazda, Subaru, Mitsubishi, and Isuzu all maintained the relative rank positions from a year ago but with the exception of Mitsubishi, all lost market share despite higher sales.

Luxury car brand Lexus moved back into the top ten at the expense of truck maker Hino. Lexus sales were up by a fifth — the best performance of the top ten largest car brands in Japan thus far in 2021.

Mercedes-Benz remained the best-selling foreign car marque in Japan during the first semester of 2021 despite sales just below the market average. In contrast, BMW sales increased by a fifth to move up two sales rank positions.

Commercial vehicle producer Mitsubishi Fuso and Volkwagen both moved down a rank position, as the only two major brands with weaker volume sales in Japan during the first half of 2021.

Peugeot, Audi, and Jeep performed the best but despite the huge increase in sales percentages, the actual volume numbers were insignificance compared to the large domestic brands.

At the luxury / exotic end of the market, Bugatti sales in Japan went from zero to four during the first semester of 2021 while Ferrari sales were virtually unchanged at 566.

Top-Ten Best-Selling Car Models in Japan in 2021 (First Half)

Japan’s ten favorite car models during the first half of 2021 were as follows:

BrandModel2021 HY2020 HY% 20/21
Source: JADA

Note: This ranking excludes mini cars.

Japan’s Ten Favorite Car Models in 2021 (Half Year)

The top ten best-selling car models in Japan experienced quite a shakeup during the first six months of 2021 with no model in the same rank position as a year ago. As usual, the Japanese car buyers loved the new and punished the old without mercy.

The best-selling car in Japan thus far in 2021 is the Toyota Yaris, which was also the top-selling car model in Japan in full year 2020. The model was previously sold as the Vitz but Toyota decided to use the international plate name when the new model was introduced in Japan in February 2020. The Yaris was fourth during the first half of 2020.

The Toyota Roomy, a compact van-like hatchback, doubled sales to move from 8th to second in 2021. Sales of the Toyota Alphard, a large minivan, increased by more than half to gain third place from 10th.

Sales of the Toyota Corolla were down 6% letting the evergreen compact sedan slip from second to fourth. The Toyota Harrier, a relatively large SUV / crossover, was one of two new entrants on the top ten list of best-selling car models in Japan. Sales were up 250% with the Harrier claiming 5th from 28th a year ago.

Last year’s number one, the Toyota Raize, slipped to sixth with sales down 18%. The Raize, launched as a new compact SUV model in 2019, also started to fall out of favor.

The Nissan Note, the best-selling non-Toyota car model in Japan during the first six months of 2021, slipped another two rank positions despite stronger sales. The Note was the top-selling car model during the first half of 2018 and second in 2019.

The Toyota Voxy, another minivan, is the second new entrant on the list moving up from 13th with sales up by a fifth. The Honda Freed, only the second non-Toyota car on the list, slipped two rank positions with lower sales.

The Toyota Sienta slipped four rank positions with sales down 16%. It rounded out the top ten list as the eighth Toyota car model on the list.

Last year’s number three, the Honda Fit, slipped to 12th with sales down 40% while the Toyota Prius slipped from 9th to 15th with sales down 27%.

Best-Selling Kei Mini Cars in Japan in 2021 (Half Year)

The ten favorite kei minicars in Japan during the first six months of 2021 were as follows:

BrandModel2021 HY2020 HY% 20/21
Total Kei Sales942,708808,08116.7
Source: Zenkeijkyo

Mini cars (kei-jidousya) in Japan are vehicles defined by amongst others being shorter than 3.4 m with a maximum height of 2 m and a maximum width of 1.48 m. The engine capacity is restricted to 0.66 l measured by the Japanese standard.

Honda N-Box © Honda

Kei minicar sales in Japan increased by 16.7% during the first half of 2021 but was still significantly below the 1,018,072 sold during the first semester of 2019.

The Honda N-Box easily maintained its position as the top-selling minicar model in Japan despite underperforming the broader market. For a change, the best-selling minicar in Japan sold in lower numbers than the regular-sized model.

The Suzuki Spacia increased sales by a fifth to easily maintain its second place while the Daihatsu Tanto was again third. The Daihatsu Move moved up one position. The Nissan Roox is a new entrant at five but the Nissan Days slipped from fourth to tenth. The other new entrant was the Daihatsu Taft while the Suzuki Wagen R and Honda N-WGN both dropped out of the top ten list.

Japan Car Sales Statistics: 2021 — Q1, Half Year; 2020 (Full Year) — Brands, Models, Minicars; 2019 (Full Year) — Brands, Models, Minicars

Published by
Henk Bekker