2021 (Q1) Japan: Best-Selling Car Brands, Models, and Minicars

January to March 2021: Toyota was again the best-selling car brand in Japan while the Yaris was the top-selling model and the Honda N-Box the favorite minicar (kei) in Q1.

© Toyota

During the first quarter of 2021, Toyota remained by far the largest vehicle manufacturer in Japan and gained market share in a growing market. Second-placed Suzuki extended its lead over Honda. The Toyota Yaris was the best-selling car model in Japan thus far in 2021. The Honda N-Box was again Japan’s favorite minicar (kei).

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

Japanese New Vehicle Market in 2021 (Q1)

New motorized vehicle registrations in Japan, including cars, minicars, trucks (heavy commercial vehicles), and buses, increased by 4.2% to 1,429,743 vehicles compared to 1,371,726 vehicles sold during the first three months of 2020. However, the Japanese new vehicle market was still 100,000 units smaller than during the first quarter of 2019.

The Japanese new car market showed some strength during the first three months of 2021. Although still weaker than in 2019 and 2018, the market expanded despite some Coronavirus restrictions. The Japanese market was not directly affected very strongly at the start of 2020 by the Coronavirus, although disruptions in supply chains led to some shortages.

Best-Selling Vehicle Manufacturers in Japan in 2021 (Q1)

The top-selling vehicle manufacturers in Japan, including cars, trucks, and buses, according to Jada were as follows during the first quarter of 2021:

MarqueQ1/2021% 21/20Q1/2020Q1/2019
12Mercedes Benz13,969-9.315,40117,385
14Mitusbishi Fuso8,926-21.711,39810,723
17BMW Mini5,41313.54,7706,328
21UD Trucks2,2553.62,1762,366
Source: Jada

Top-Selling Car Brands in Japan in 2021 (Q1)

There were no changes in the rank positions of the ten largest vehicle makers in Japan during the first quarter of 2021 compared to the same period last year. Toyota remained by far the largest carmaker in Japan and gained market share.

Suzuki was again the second best-selling car brand in Japan and extended its lead over Honda that had weaker units sales. Suzuki was the best-performing top-ten brand while Honda was the worst. Of the top-ten brands, Nissan and Mitsubishi also gained market share while Mazda and Hino had weaker volume sales.

Lexus had strong sales in Japan thus far this year and moved again ahead of Mercedes-Benz that had sales down by 9%. BMW moved up by two rank positions at the expense of the two worst performing top brands: Mitsubishi Fuso sales were down by over a fifth while Volkswagen sales in Japan were down by more than a third.

The smaller foreign brands mostly enjoyed strong growth in Japan during the first quarter of 2021, although the actual volume numbers are very low compared to the sales of the top Japanese carmakers. Peugeot and Citroen sales were up by around 50% while Jeep and Renault sales were up by around a fifth. Volvo sales were weaker.

Best-Selling Car Models in Japan in 2021 (Q1)

The ten best-selling car models in Japan during the period January to March 2021 were as follows:

BrandModelJan 2021Feb 2021Mar 2021Q1/2021Q1/2020Q1/2019
Source: JADA

Note: Exclude minicars – see below

Japanese car buyers famously love the new and punish the old and the start of 2021 was no different from this pattern — not a single top-ten car was in the same rank position as a year ago.

The Toyota Yaris replaced the Toyota Corolla as the best-selling car model during the first quarter of 2021. The new Yaris has been popular since its launch early 2020 with the international name now also used in Japan instead of the previous Vitz. Although the Vitz often made it onto the top ten list, it rarely reached the top.

The Toyota Roomy moved to second place from ninth while the Toyota Alphard is a new entrant on the list. Last year’s top-seller, the Toyota Corolla slipped to fourth.

The Nissan Note slipped from third to fifth — it was the top-seller in the three preceding years. The Nissan Serena slipped from sixth to ninth making the two Nissans the only non-Toyota models amongst the top-ten best-selling cars in Japan thus far in 2021.

The Toyota Harrier and Toyota Voxy are new on the list while the Raize slipped from second to eighth and the Sienta from fourth to tenth.

There were no Honda models amongst the top ten best-selling cars in Japan in 2021 (Q1): the Fit slipped to eleventh and the Freed to twelfth.

The Toyota Prius and the Toyota Aqua that dominated the sales charts in Japan for many years, both dropped out of the top-ten list.

Best-Selling Minicars in Japan in 2021 (Q1)

The top-selling minicars (kei) in Japan during the first three months of 2021 were as follows:

BrandModelQ1/2021Q1/2020% Change
10SuzukiWagon R18,93518,993-0.3

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

In Japan, the top-selling minicars often sell in vastly larger numbers than the standard car models but the success of the Toyota Yaris for a change meant that a standard passenger car was the best-selling car in Japan.

The Honda N-Box easily remained Japan’s favorite minicar model. The Suzuki Spacia regained second place from the Daihatsu Tanto. The Nissan Roox gained the most but the numbers are massaged by the Roox only going on sale during the latter weeks of the first quarter of 2020.

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

Published by
Henk Bekker