April 15, 2008

Trends in Mini-Vehicle Use
-Results of JAMA’s Fiscal 2007 Survey-

The Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) has published the results of its mini-vehicle use fact-finding survey carried out in fiscal 2007 (ending March 31, 2008). JAMA has conducted this survey in odd-numbered years since 1981 to determine mini-vehicle ownership and user trends and characteristics.

Based on 3,038 samples, survey results revealed the following information.

(1) Regarding mini-vehicle use overall:

  • Minicar ownership is high among women and senior citizens, and minicars are generally used as a means of daily transportation.
  • Most “cab-over-engine” minivans and miniwagons are used for commercial purposes (60%), while about 40% of mini-trucks are used in agricultural work.

(2) Regarding mini-vehicle use and limited public transport availability:

  • Per-household ownership of mini-vehicles is higher in areas that are poorly served by public transportation, where these vehicles provide the mobility required for the purposes of commuting and conducting errands as well as other everyday activities.

(3) Regarding mini-vehicle use and the mobility of women:

  • Minicars are a key means of mobility for working women, who also make frequent use of their cars to carry out household-related (including childcare) tasks.

(4) Regarding mini-vehicle use and the mobility of the elderly:

  • For lower-income households composed of senior citizens only, minicars have proven indispensable for the conduct of errands, hospital visits, and other basic activities. These vehicles are extremely convenient for elderly users because of their user-friendliness and economy.

Detailed mini-vehicle use survey results are posted on JAMA’s Web site at:

Reference: JAMA’s Fiscal 2007 Survey on Trends in Mini-Vehicle Use ~ Summary of Results

1. Basic Description of the Fiscal 2007 Survey

Survey targets Households and businesses owning mini-vehicles
Survey area Nationwide
Valid responses 3,038
Survey period Mid-May to mid-June 2007

2. Survey Results

Trends in Minicar Use:

  • Principal drivers of minicars were mostly women (60%), and whereas the percentage of minicar owners aged 50 or older dipped slightly (to 42%), that of owners aged 29 or younger increased (to 18%). Average owner age was, consequently, 45.8 years.
  • A large majority (77%) of minicar owners also owned other vehicles, with standard-size and small-size passenger cars accounting for 57% of multiple vehicle ownership including at least one minicar.
  • The principal reasons cited by owners for their minicar purchases were “economy” (69%), “low taxes,” and “fuel economy.”

Trends in Mini-Commercial Vehicle Use:

  • Cab-over-engine minivans and miniwagons were used primarily for “commercial” purposes (60%) and for “regular passenger” transport (39%).
  • About 40% of mini-trucks were used in agricultural work, primarily for trips to and from farmed paddies and fields and for carrying produce (56%).

Mini-Vehicle Use in Relation to Population Density:

  • Mini-vehicle ownership was widespread in areas outside Japan’s major cities and in rural regions. In cities/towns and rural districts with populations of less than 100,000 (which comprise 32% of the national population), an average 47% of the population owned mini-vehicles, while in cities/towns and rural districts with populations of less than 300,000 (which comprise 56% of the national population), an average 73% of the population were mini-vehicle owners.
  • Survey respondents living in those less densely populated parts of Japan indicated that these areas were, in their view, poorly served by public transportation.
  • In districts with populations of less than 300,000 and a population density of fewer than 400 persons per square kilometer, 51% of respondents who commute to work or school by car said that either public transportation “won’t take me there” or “makes it difficult to get there.” A total of 17% of mini-vehicle users said if they had to rely on public transport exclusively for commuting to and from work, such a situation would have the serious consequence of “forcing me to leave my job.”

Trends in Mini-Vehicle Use by Women:

  • A high employment rate was registered among female minicar users. For those in their 50s and older, compared to overall employment rates (65% for women in their 50s, 21% for women in their 60s or older), the employment rates for mini-vehicle users were higher (72% for women in their 50s and 44% for women in their 60s or older). The mobility needs of “older” working women thus seem to be well-served by mini-vehicles.
  • For married women who also worked, not having a car at their disposal would reportedly have an impact not only on their employment but also on their household management-related activities including shopping for provisions. Furthermore, because larger car ownership for such purposes would represent a financial burden, mini-vehicles offered these women the best solution.
  • With respect to frequency of use, more women than men said they used their mini-vehicles “almost every day” (69% to 63%). In terms of average monthly mileage, however, women drove only 460 km compared to 553 km for men.
  • With respect to specific uses, 36% of all women respondents cited “commuting.” For working women with preschool-aged children, that figure rose to 74%; assuming a situation where they would not have a car available for their use, a large percentage of these women indicated that “time required for shopping and errands would increase while time available for housework would decline.” Thus, mini-vehicles seem to serve well the needs of women who must devote time to jobs, housework and/or childcare.
  • In contrast, unmarried female owners of mini-vehicles cited “easy to drive” and “practical for maneuvering on narrow roads and in cramped spaces” as the primary factors in their vehicle purchasing choice, suggesting a possibly less stringent financial motive for this group than for other categories of women respondents.

Trends in Mini-Vehicle Use by Senior Citizens:

  • Persons aged 60 or older accounted for 20% of all mini-vehicle owners. In that segment, 31% of those aged 65 or older were employed, and that rate increased the less populated their area of residence.
  • Average annual income for “senior households” owning minicars is low, at 3.41 million yen. Average annual income for senior households not owning a second car is even lower, at 2.98 million yen.
  • Everyday use of minicars by senior citizens was extremely high, as demonstrated by the rate of senior responses to “daily shopping and errands” (93%) and “hospital visits or pickups/drop-offs” (79%).
  • Among likely inconveniences anticipated in the event that mini-vehicles were no longer available, the most frequent response was “pressure on cost-of-living expenditures” at 55%. One out of four senior respondents indicated that such a situation would rule out car ownership for them, and that ratio increased the less populated their area of residence.
  • While 89% of all survey respondents indicated they wanted their next automobile purchase also to be a mini-vehicle, this figure was even higher among seniors (97%).