April 2016

Trends in Mini-Vehicle Use in Japan: Summary of Results of JAMA’s Fiscal 2015 Survey

The Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) is pleased to release the results of the survey on mini-vehicles it conducted in fiscal year 2015 (ending March 31, 2016).  This survey has been conducted by JAMA in odd-numbered years since 1981 to identify the trends behind mini-vehicle use in Japan and determine how these vehicles address emerging social needs, and thereby to clarify their position in the overall vehicle market.

I.  Principal Findings

1.  Basic trends in mini-vehicle use and purchases

  • A sustained trend in mini passenger car ownership and commercial mini-vehicle ownership is the growing share of elderly owners.
  • Owners of mini passenger cars and owners of commercial mini-vehicles reporting annual incomes of under 4 million yen constituted the largest group of respondents.  Within that segment, the survey showed an increase in the share of owners of commercial mini-vehicles.
  • While owners of mini passenger cars indicated longer periods of ownership, a parallel trend has been the rise in vehicle purchase prices.

2.  Mini-vehicle use in relation to population density

  • High rates of mini-vehicle ownership were reported in areas outside of major cities and that are poorly served by public transportation.
  • Mini-vehicle daily use rates were higher and average daily driving distances longer in areas outside of major cities.
  • Survey results showed longer periods of mini-vehicle ownership in areas outside of major cities, as well comparatively more purchases of higher-priced mini-vehicle models in those areas.

3.  Trends in mini-vehicle use by women

  • Women raising children and working women reported they would have greater difficulties in accomplishing daily tasks if they did not own a mini-vehicle.
  • Mini-vehicle use frequency was found to be particularly high among working women, who also reported longer average daily driving distances.

4.  Trends in mini-vehicle use by senior citizens

  • The volition to renew their driver’s license was stronger among respondents from higher age groups, and was particularly strong among seniors older than 70 and among respondents living outside of major cities. 
  • Increased use of mini-vehicles for “Commuting” was reported by respondents in their 60s, and for “Hobbies and leisure” among those in their 70s.

5.  Younger users’ views on mini-vehicle ownership/use

  • The younger respondents among “Younger users” were found to feel more uncomfortable about driving than their elders within this age segment, a trend particularly pronounced among mini-vehicle users.
  • More respondents in their 20s and 30s claimed to have a positive image of mini-vehicles than respondents in their 40s.

6.  The continued appeal of mini-vehicles

  • Respondents reported greater satisfaction with mini-vehicles than with standard- or small-sized models.
  • Survey results indicated that mini-vehicles are viewed favorably because of their extensive model lineup and because of the greater personal mobility they are perceived to offer.

7.  Safety performance evaluations

  • Respondents indicated an increased awareness of onboard safety features in mini-vehicles, including collision-mitigation braking.
  • Survey results indicated an increasingly positive perception of mini-vehicle safety among respondents, linked to expanding installation rates of onboard safety features.

8.  Impact of changes in tax rates

  • A growing number of respondents viewed the mini-vehicle tax (raised beginning in April 2015) as a burden.
  • Survey results indicated that the increase in Japan’s mini-vehicle tax (assessed annually) has had more of an impact on mini-vehicle owners than the increase in the national consumption tax (in April 2014).

II  Survey Methods and Targets

a)  Offline questionnaire (nationwide distribution)
Targets:              Households and businesses owning mini-vehicles
Valid responses:           3,053
(Mini passenger cars: 1,709; Mini “bonnet” vans: 406; Cab-over-engine minivans: 423; Mini-trucks: 515)
Period conducted:        May 10-June 10, 2015

b)  Online survey
Targets:                           Men and women owners, aged 20-79, of mini-vehicles or regular (i.e., standard- and small-sized) passenger cars* as their primary vehicles
*Passenger cars are classified under Japan’s Road Vehicles Act in three categories, based primarily on engine capacity: “standard” (over 2,000cc), “small” (661cc-2,000cc), and “mini” (660cc and under).
Valid responses:           1,120
(Mini-vehicles: 640; Regular passenger cars: 480)
Period conducted:        September 25-29, 2015

c)  In-person group interview
Targets:                            Householders in Tokyo and in Tokyo’s neighboring Kanagawa, Chiba and Saitama prefectures who purchased a mini-vehicle within the past five years
Valid responses:           13
(Men who opted for a mini-vehicle purchase: 7;
Women who opted for a mini-vehicle purchase: 6)
Conducted on:              October 17, 2015


Complete survey results are posted online, in Japanese only, at http://www.jama.or.jp/lib/invest_analysis/s_car.html.

See attached file: http://www.jama.or.jp/lib/invest_analysis/pdf/2015LightCars.pdf