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Japan First Half 2018: Nissan Note set for historical annual win

The Nissan Note is set to become only the second non-Toyota nameplate to rank #1 in 50 years.

* Now updated with the Top 62 brands, Top 50 regular cars, Top 35 kei cars and Top 20 foreigners *

After stretching its legs last year with a 9.2% surge, the Japanese new vehicle market falls back to earth in 2018, dropping 1.8% or 50.000 units to 2.732.478. Two carmakers are responsible for this decline: Toyota down 9.2% or 78.000 units to 28% share vs. 30.3% over the same period a year ago and Subaru down 20.2% or 20.000 sales to 2.8% share vs. 3.5% in 2018. The market bar these two brands is actually up 2.6%… Honda (+2.4%) and Suzuki (+4.4%) post solid gains to close out the podium like last year, and in fact the entire Top 10 is unchanged on H1 2017. Mitsubishi (+16.2%) is by far the best performing Top 10 carmaker ahead of Mazda (+7.5%) and Hino (+5.4%) with Daihatsu (+1.7%) also in positive and ending the period just 883 sales below Nissan (-2.3%) while Isuzu (-11.7%) struggles. Just outside the Top 10, Lexus (+49.5%) delivers the best performance of any Japanese brand this year so far.

Thanks to the Eclipse Cross, Mitsubishi lodges the largest year-on-year gain in the Top 10.

Mercedes (-0.6%) remains the most popular foreign carmaker in Japan but drops one spot on a year ago to #12, passed by Lexus in the premium order. Volkswagen (+1.9%) and BMW (-7.8%) also both step down one spot because of Lexus with BMW outselling Volkswagen in June. Audi (+4.4%), Mini (+2.4%), Volvo (+10.8%), Jeep (+13.2%) and Peugeot (+32.7%) follow, all outpacing the market, while further down McLaren (+65.7%), Alfa Romeo (+62.2%), Chevrolet (+57.8%), Lotus (+51.1%), Citroen (+32.2%), Land Rover (+21.7%), Cadillac (+15.7%) and Lamborghini (+14.3%) are among the best performers.

The Honda Fit (in 2002 and 2008) is the only non-Toyota model to have ranked #1 in the past 50 years.

Model-wise, it’s a full-on earthquake we’re witnessing, with the Nissan Note slated to snap its very first annual win despite a 13% year-on-year drop to 73.380 sales. If held until the end of the year, the Note would be the first non-Toyota to top the annual regular car charts in a decade and only the second non-Toyota nameplate to rank #1 in 50 years alongside the Honda Fit in 2002 and 2008. As a reminder, the Toyota Corolla led from 1969 to 2001 and 2003 to 2007, the Prius from 2009 to 2012, 2016 and 2017 and the Aqua from 2013 to 2015 – you can consult 1969-2017 Historical Japanese car sales here (keep in mind we are talking regular cars here, not including kei cars). Paradoxically, the Note only ranked #1 in Japan from January to March this year, with the Toyota Aqua taking the relay since thanks to a mid-life facelift. Meanwhile the Prius tumbles down 30% to #3, losing its main point of difference as its hybrid technology is now available in all other Toyota nameplates.

The Nissan Leaf more than doubles its sales over the period thanks to the new model.

The next three best-sellers all gain volume year-on-year and progress in the ranking: they are the Nissan Serena (+3%), Honda Fit (+4%) and Toyota Voxy (+8%) with the Toyota Roomy (+15%) posting the largest gain in the Top 10. In contrast, the Toyota C-HR (-48%), Honda Freed (-28%), Toyota Vitz (-18%) and Toyota Sienta (-16%) all fall heavily. Further down, notice the Toyota Camry (+1114%), Lexus NX300H (+133%), Nissan Leaf (+103%), Toyota Land Cruiser W (+69%), Honda StepWGN (+45%), Daihatsu Thor (+34%), Mazda CX-3 (+31%), Toyota Noah (+15%) and Toyota Alphard (+13%) all posting robust improvements. No less than six brand new nameplates manage to climb into the Top 50, led by the Mazda CX-8 (#28) and Suzuki Xbee (#29) with the Honda Civic (#37), Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross (#42), Lexus NX300 (#48) and Lexus LS500H (#50) in tow.

The Suzuki Spacia is up 38% to rank #2 kei car so far in 2018 thanks to a new generation.

In the kei cars ranking, the Honda N-BOX (+20%) cements its leadership thanks to a very solid gain and is followed this year by the Suzuki Spacia soaring 38% and three spots over the same period a year ago to #2. The Daihatsu Move (+3%) overtakes both the Daihatsu Tanto (-11%) and Nissan Dayz (-6%) to land on the third step of the poiudm. Below, only the Daihatsu Mira (+10%) and Suzuki Wagon R (+8%) post positive results with the remainder of the Top 10 in negative, notably the Suzuki Hustler (-22%). Further down, the Daihatsu Atrai Wagon (+89%), Mazda Flair Wagon (+72%), Honda N-ONE (+46%), Toyota Pixis (+31%) and Subaru Pleo (+19%) make themselves noticed.

First half-year Top 20 ranking for the Jeep Wrangler in Japan.

The Mini (+2%) remains the best-selling foreign model in Japan over the period, mainly because there’s no split between different models. The VW Golf catches up at +7% and ends the Semester less than 650 sales off the Mini. The Mercedes C-Class (+7%) and E-Class (-13%) camp on their positions despite diverging behaviours, while the Volvo V40 (+11%) is the only nameplate in positive inside the Top 10, with the BMW 3 Series (-28%), Audi A3 (-16%), VW Polo (-13%) and BMW 2 Series (-12%) hit the hardest. Further down, the Mercedes GLC (+27%) and Volvo S/V60 (+14%) shine, while we welcome the Audi Q2 (#18) and Jeep Wrangler (#19) for the first time in a Japanese half-year Top 20.

Previous post: Japan June 2018: Lexus, Mazda defy market down 5%, Toyota down 16.3%

One year ago: Japan First Half 2017: Toyota C-HR storms into third place, Prius #1

Full H1 2018 Top 62 brands, Top 50 regular cars, Top 35 kei cars and Top 20 foreigners vs. Full H1 2017 figures below.

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