AutoGuide News Blog
The AutoGuide News Blog is your source for breaking stories from the auto industry. Delivering news immediately, the AutoGuide Blog is constantly updated with the latest information, photos and video from manufacturers, auto shows, the aftermarket and professional racing.
Each market has its favorites when it comes to cars. People in the Middle-East prefer powerful SUV’s like the Mercedes-Benz G-class, while in America the pick-up truck reigns supreme, especially the Ford F-150.
In Japan, the most popular car is neither big, nor powerful, but it fills the needs of most of its motorists. Since 2003, the most popular car sold in Japan is the Suzuki Wagon R.
The Wagon R is a kei-class vehicle, which means it fits in Japan’s stringent “Kei” segment. Cars in this segment, the smallest road-legal cars available. Kei cars cannot have engines larger than 660 cc, can be no longer than 11.2 feet, should have a maximum width of 4.2 feet and cannot be taller than 6.6 feet.
Despite such restrictions, all major Japanese manufacturers offer cars in this segment. And just because they are small, don’t think they have skimmed on equipment either as all-wheel drive, turbocharged engines and all sorts of electronic gizmos are available.
Between the generous equipment levels, tax breaks and fuel savings these cars provide kei-cars have become wildly popular in Japan. According to “The Japan Mini Vehicle Association” more than 50% of the cars on Japanese roads are now kei-cars. Not only are these cars popular in city centers, but the survey reveals that even in rural areas people prefer smaller vehicles.
The least popular city for such cars is the metropolitan city of Tokyo, where only 11% of household owns kei-cars, while in Tottori Perfecture, 98% of households own kei-cars.
Since fuel prices and congestion in big cities is ever increasing in North America, would this trend catch on here? We highly doubt it.
[Source: Green Car Reports]
In North America, Suzuki does very well as a motorcycle brand, but when it comes to cars, hardly anybody buys them. Many believe, that if Suzuki one day decides to abandon selling cars on this continent, no one will miss it.
In Japan however, it is a different story. Suzuki cars are still very popular there and May 2011 is clear proof of that, since their WagonR was the best selling car in the land of the rising sun.
Suzuki sold 11,186 units of the WagonR, beating the Daihatsu Move and the Honda Fit along the way. It is also the first time in two-years that a ‘mini-car’ has taken the top sales spot in Japan.
Part of the reason could be due to parts availability. Most ‘mini-cars’ (also known as ‘Kei’ cars in Japan) are quite simple and use fewer parts, so production of these vehicles was less effected by the earthquake and tsunami back in March.
Car sales as a whole took a huge tumble in Japan however, as sales dropped by 37.8% this May compared to last year.