April 2014

Trends in Mini-Vehicle Use in Japan: Summary of Results of JAMA’s Fiscal 2013 Survey

The Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) is pleased to release the results of the survey on mini-vehicles it conducted in fiscal year 2013 (ending March 31, 2014).  This survey has been conducted by JAMA in odd-numbered years since 1981 to identify the trends behind mini-vehicle use in Japan and to determine how these vehicles address emerging social needs.

I.  Principal Findings

1.  Basic trends in mini-vehicle use and purchases

  • A sustained trend in passenger and commercial-type mini-vehicle ownership is the growing share of elderly owners.  The survey also registered a growing demand for mini-trucks.
  • The majority of respondents who were owners of passenger and commercial-type mini-vehicles reported annual incomes of under 4 million yen.  Within that segment, the survey showed an increase in the share of owners of mini-vehicles for commercial use.
  • Respondents indicated a desire to curb costs related to vehicle ownership, not only by purchasing a mini-vehicle in order to benefit from its excellent fuel efficiency, but also by extending vehicle ownership periods.

2.  Mini-vehicle use in relation to population density

  • Higher rates of mini-vehicle ownership were recorded in regions outside of major cities and in areas poorly served by public transportation.
  • For respondents residing in areas poorly served by public transport, mini-vehicles were viewed as indispensable for accomplishing basic activities, including commuting to work or school and grocery shopping.
  • The shift in recent years to mini-vehicle ownership for economic reasons is now a growing trend also in large cities and their suburbs.

3.  Trends in mini-vehicle use by women

  • More women than men indicated that they could not function effectively without the use of a motor vehicle.
  • Mini-vehicles were rated very highly as a means of mobility not only by respondents who found driving a challenge but by working women, women raising children, and women otherwise active in society.

4.  Trends in mini-vehicle use by senior citizens

  • The survey showed that, with increasing numbers of senior citizens finding it difficult to function without the use of a motor vehicle, mini-vehicles are widely used by persons in this demographic primarily for the purpose of running daily errands, including shopping.
  • Mini-vehicles enjoy support among senior citizens not only for their economy, but also because their size enables easy maneuvering around town.

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

  • Mini-vehicles enjoy a high reputation for economy, a primary factor behind their widespread use by younger drivers.  About 70% of young vehicle-owning respondents indicated they were thinking of continuing to purchase mini-vehicles in the future.
  • While younger respondents rated mini-vehicles highly for economy, they also saw these vehicles as offering more diversified appeal than that perceived by older respondents.

6.  The trend of downsizing to mini-vehicles

  • About 26% of respondents reported having replaced their previous standard-sized or small-sized passenger car with a mini-vehicle—a generation-spanning trend that was most prevalent among senior citizens.
  • Survey responses revealed that mini-vehicles are being purchased as the cars of choice upon marriage, as children grow older, upon retirement and at other critical junctures in life.

II.  Survey Methods and Targets

a) Offline questionnaire (nationwide distribution)
Targets: Households and businesses owning mini-vehicles
Valid responses:  3,030
(Mini passenger cars: 1,696; Mini “bonnet” vans: 407;
Cab-over-engine minivans: 411; Mini-trucks: 516)
Period conducted: May 10-June 9, 2013
b) Online survey
Targets: Men and women owners, aged 20-79, of mini-vehicles or regular (standard- and small-sized) passenger cars as their primary vehicles
Valid responses: 960
(Mini-vehicles: 640; Regular passenger cars: 320)
Period conducted: September 23-30, 2013
c) In-person group interview
Targets: Residents of Tokyo and three prefectures in the Kanto region who were driver’s license holders and/or members of households where mini-vehicles had been purchased within the previous five years
Valid responses: 18
(Vehicle owners having downsized to mini-vehicles: 6; Men and women having specifically opted for a mini-vehicle purchase: 6 and 6, respectively)
Period conducted: October 9-12, 2013

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

See attached file: 0410trends_in_mini-vehicle.pdf