Japan is the world’s third largest car market but it is a difficult one for non-Japanese makers. After a terrible 2011 (earthquake, tsunami), the industry is back in 2012, up 28%. That’s the best performance among developed markets, and is just behind the Middle East car markets, Iceland and Peru. Regular Passenger cars sales (+26%) and kei-cars (+30%) sales contributed to this big jump. Still, compared to 2010 figures (when there wasn’t any disaster or particular event), the growth is moderate: +7,3%. This shows that the market had a fast recovery, wasn’t affected by international financial crisis, and that it is a mature market.
Japan is well-known for its mini cars, the kei-cars, which have a different regulation regarding taxes and TCO (Total Cost of ownership). This cars, along with other coming from abroad (which doesn’t fulfill local standards but are considered city cars), make part of A-Segment, which counts for a shocking 40%! Therefore, Japan is the largest market for this kind of cars in terms of volume and share. Unfortunately there is no enough data for 2011 figures, so is not possible to analyze the changes in segments. As I said before, the market is really closed even if it doesn’t look. Japan is open for imports from everywhere and some cases there are Zero Import taxes for some cars. Nevertheless, there are many other invisible barriers that difficult the success of imported cars. The result of this policy is evident: 95% of PC sales correspond to locally made models (all of them, Japanese brands). In other words, imported cars are not expensive compared to its Japanese rivals, but the maintenance costs and the price of auto parts are extremely expensive and sometimes difficult to obtain (this problem should be solved once the FTA Europe-Japan is signed).
Fiat-Chrysler has an interesting position in the imports market. Japan is one of the few markets in the world where sales by brands are quite balanced: Fiat brand counts for 32% but is closely followed by Jeep and Alfa Romeo. Ferrari and Maserati had very good numbers (is the third largest market for Maserati and the 5th for Ferrari), while Dodge and Chrysler don’t shine but count for almost 10% of the group’s sales. In 2012 Alfa Romeo introduced the Giulietta and it was an absolute hit, allowing the brand to increase its registrations by 139% (one of the best performances of the brand). Lancia brand was also introduced due to the fact that some Japanese were importing directly the Ypsilon and Delta. However, Lancia is a niche brand. The group’s share in the whole market is very low, 0,36% (which is worse than market share in China and India, but better than Russia’s).