December 18, 2008

Forecast for Japan’s Passenger Car & Commercial Vehicle Demand in Calendar Year 2009

Motor Vehicles

  1. Total Demand for Passenger Cars & Commercial Vehicles
    1. Total sales of passenger cars and commercial vehicles in Japan in calendar 2008 should finish at 5.11 million units, a decline of 4.5% from the previous year. Demand for passenger cars is estimated at 4.25 million units (down 3.3% from 2007); for trucks, at 843,000 units (down 10.1%); and for buses, at 15,400 units (down 1.4%). The decline in sales of both passenger cars and commercial vehicles is attributable to the economic slowdown and sinking consumer confidence caused by soaring fuel prices in the first half of the year, as well as a dramatically deteriorating economy, starting in autumn, resulting from the U.S.-spawned global financial crisis.
    2. The projection for 2009 is that the harsh economic climate prevailing in late 2008 will continue. Stagnant corporate earnings, sluggish consumer spending (due to deteriorating employment and income environments) and other adverse trends are forecast to result in a total demand for passenger cars and commercial vehicles of 4.86 million units, down 4.9% from 2008. Passenger car demand should reach 4.05 million units, down 4.8% from 2008, with demand for trucks and buses totalling 796,000 units and 14,100 units respectively, down 5.6% and 8.4%.
  2. Standard & Small-Sized Passenger Cars
    1. Sales of standard and small-sized passenger cars in 2008 should total 2.82 million units, a year-on-year decline of 4.7%. While the introduction of new models yielded positive results in the first half of the year, it is anticipated that the negative factors mentioned above (high fuel prices and the economic downturn) will indeed push the total sales figure for these vehicles below the 2007 level.
    2. Demand for standard and small-sized cars in 2009 is forecast at 2.62 million units, down a significant 7.1% from 2008, reflecting the impact of continued negative trends such as sluggish consumer spending resulting from weak employment and income environments.
  3. Mini Passenger Cars
    1. Minicar sales in 2008 are estimated at 1,439,000 units, down 0.6% from the previous year. Despite the favorable impact of new and restyled models introduced in the autumn, the overall drop is chiefly attributable to declining consumer confidence in a deteriorating economic climate.
    2. In 2009, despite an anticipated continued boost from the new and restyled models introduced in late 2008, consumer spending is expected to remain weak owing to the adverse employment and income environments. As a result, total demand in this category in 2009 is forecast at 1,435,000 units, a dip of 0.3% from 2008.
  4. Standard Trucks
    1. Standard truck demand in 2008 is projected at 147,000 units, down 14.5% from 2007 owing to a combination of factors, including declines in capital investment, reduced payloads and other trends linked to the surge in fuel prices and the economic downturn. Demand for heavy-duty and medium-sized trucks is expected to finish at 74,500 units, a 16.5% plunge from the 2007 level.
    2. In 2009 sales in this category are forecast at 128,000 units, down 12.9% from 2008, reflecting what is projected to be a continued harsh economic environment. Demand for heavy-duty and medium-sized trucks should stand at 62,000 units, a year-on-year decline of 16.8%.
  5. Small Trucks
    1. Small truck sales in 2008 are estimated at 252,000 units, down 14.0% from the previous year owing to various factors including the sharp rise in fuel prices and the deteriorating economy.
    2. Despite the negative economic projections for 2009, the introduction of new models and other positive factors should help bring demand in this category to 250,000 units, a dip of only 0.8% compared to 2008.
  6. Mini-Trucks
    1. Mini-truck demand in 2008 should total 444,000 units, down 6.1% from the previous year. The drop is attributable to changes in market structure caused by shrinking numbers of small retailers and farmers (the primary users of these vehicles) as well as an overall decline in business confidence.
    2. In 2009, owing to a continuation of the aforementioned trends, demand in this category is forecast at 418,000 units, down 5.9% from 2008.
  7. Large Buses
    1. Sales of large buses in 2008 are estimated at 5,300 units, a gain of 2.9% over 2007. Replacement demand for these vehicles is the main factor behind this growth.
    2. In 2009, however, this growth trend is not expected to continue under the impact of harsh economic conditions. Demand for large buses will likely not exceed 4,200 units, plummeting 20.8% from the previous year.
  8. Small Buses
    1. Steady replacement demand will have helped sales of small buses in 2008 to finish at a projected 10,100 units, down 3.5% from 2007.
    2. In 2009 sales in this category should continue to be buoyed by replacement demand, resulting in a final annual sales performance of 9,900 units, a 2.0% drop from 2008.


  1. Total Demand for Motorcycles

    A number of negative factors have impacted Japan’s motorcycle market this year, including higher vehicle prices reflecting mandatory compliance with new emissions regulations (enforced in 2006, 2007 or 2008, depending on motorcycle type etc.) as well as a deteriorating economic environment stemming from the global financial crisis. Demand has also declined as a result of stronger crackdowns on illegal parking (starting in 2006) and the chronic shortage of motorcycle parking bays in cities and towns. On the other hand, surging fuel prices have underscored for consumers the economy and convenience of motorcycles in the 51-to-125cc category (or “Class-2 motor-driven cycles” as they are called in Japan) and smaller models. Nevertheless, and despite other positive developments such as new product launches, domestic market conditions are severe. Against this backdrop, total current and upcoming demand is forecast as follows.

    1. Total motorcycle demand in Japan in calendar 2008 is estimated at 570,000 units, down 21.1% from 2007. Declining sales have been recorded in all motorcycle categories except for the aforementioned 51-to-125cc category.
    2. In 2009 sales declines are projected in all model categories, with total domestic motorcycle demand expected to drop to 498,000 units, down 12.6% from 2008.
  2. Class-1 Motor-Driven Cycles (50cc & under)
    1. Sales of Class-1 motor-driven cycles in 2008 are estimated at 297,000 units, a 35.2% plunge from the previous year. In addition to higher vehicle price tags resulting from compliance with stricter emissions regulations, this major decline also reflects the impact of stronger crackdowns on illegal parking linked to motorcycle parking bay shortages.
    2. In 2009, as a result of the continued impact of higher vehicle prices, limited parking availability and other negative factors including a shift to bicycle use, sales in this category will likely not exceed 270,000 units, a drop of 9.1% from 2008.
  3. Class-2 Motor-Driven Cycles (51cc-125cc)
    1. Demand for Class-2 motor-driven cycles in 2008 should reach 123,000 units, a 22.1% surge over 2007. The factors behind this gain include an increasingly favorable consumer assessment of their economy in the light of soaring fuel prices and, therefore, a wider use of these vehicles for commuting to work or school, as well as a rush of last-minute purchases prior to scheduled vehicle price hikes.
    2. In 2009 demand in this category is expected to plummet 26.8% from 2008 to 90,000 units, as a result of higher vehicle prices caused by mandatory compliance with emissions regulations and, also, a smaller number of models on the market.
  4. Mini-Sized Motorcycles (126cc-250cc)
    1. Mini-sized motorcycle sales in 2008 are forecast at 72,000 units, down 12.0% from 2007. Because these motorcycles enjoy particularly high demand in urban areas, the lack of parking bays in cities and towns has been the single most important factor in their diminished sales, with an additional factor being higher vehicle prices resulting from mandatory compliance with emissions requirements.
    2. Because of the continued impact of the aforementioned factors, sales in this category in 2009 are projected to drop to 64,000 units, down 11.1% from 2008.
  5. Small-Sized Motorcycles (over 250cc)
    1. Sales of small-sized motorcycles in 2008 should finish at 78,000 units, a drop of 4.7% from the previous year. Although compliance with emissions regulations also resulted in price hikes for vehicles in this category, there was a stronger demand for these larger models for the purpose of recreational use than for models in other categories, especially among middle-aged riders.
    2. In 2009, although demand in this category for recreational purposes is expected to remain firm, negative factors will include increased price tags for models in the 400cc-and-over class as a result of emissions regulations compliance. Overall demand in this category in 2009 is therefore projected at 74,000 units, down 5.1% from 2008.

[Data chart attached (PDF)]