April 2012

Trends in Mini-Vehicle Use in Japan: Summary of Results of JAMA's Fiscal 2011 Survey

The Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) is pleased to release the results of the survey on mini-vehicles it conducted in fiscal year 2011 (ending March 31, 2012).  This survey has been conducted by JAMA in odd-numbered years since 1981 in order to identify the trends behind mini-vehicle use in Japan.

Basic description of the fiscal 2011 mini-vehicle survey:

Survey targets

Households and businesses owning mini-vehicles

Survey area


Valid responses


Survey period

Mid-June to mid-July 2011

Principal findings:
1.  Basic Trends in Mini-Vehicle Use

  • A clear trend in private as well as commercial mini-vehicle use is that vehicle owners are, increasingly, elderly, with declining household incomes.
  • There is a continuing shift towards smaller models in this market segment.
  • Cab-over-engine minivans are increasingly being used in agricultural work.

2.  Mini-Vehicle Use in Relation to Population Density

  • Mini-vehicle use for commuting to work or school is high in areas that are poorly served by public transportation.
  • The view that vehicle ownership is necessary for the conduct of everyday activities rises in direct proportion to declines in population density, with a high percentage of rural-area residents regarding mini-vehicle ownership as essential.

3.  Trends in Mini-Vehicle Use by Women

  • Mini-vehicles are a highly-favored means of mobility for working women, not only for commuting to work but for performing other everyday tasks.  Mini-vehicles are viewed as indispensable especially by mothers with small children.
  • The percentage of women mini-vehicle users aged 60 or older is rising.  At 62%, the employment rate for women mini-vehicle users is higher than the employment rate for women in the general population, for all age groups.

4.  Trends in Mini-Vehicle Use by Senior Citizens

  • The shift to purchases of smaller vehicles is conspicuous among this demographic, whose members commonly see a decline in annual income (typically, from the age of 60).
  • “Senior” respondents also affirmed their desire to make a vehicle replacement purchase in the near future, with a majority expressing interest in buying another mini-vehicle at that time.

5.  Users’ Views on Car Ownership/Use

  • Younger users of mini-vehicles are less interested in cars than their elders, viewing cars primarily as a means of transport.  Women mini-vehicle users expressed a desire to actively enjoy driving, in contrast to male mini-vehicle users who have grown increasingly indifferent about the specific cars they own.

6.  Impact of Tax Incentives and Subsidies for “Eco-Car” Purchases

  • About 25% of new-model mini-vehicle purchasers responded that the tax breaks and subsidies offered when buying environmental performance requirement-compliant “eco-cars” constituted the key factor in their decision to buy.

Complete survey results are posted online, in Japanese only, at www.jama.or.jp/.