Automotive industry in Japan

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First generation Toyota Corolla (1966), the world's all-time best selling line of cars; in its 12th generation as of 2018

The automotive industry in Japan is one of the most prominent and largest industries in the world. Japan has been in the top three of the countries with most cars manufactured since the 1960s, surpassing Germany. The automotive industry in Japan rapidly increased from the 1970s to the 1990s (when it was oriented both for domestic use and worldwide export) and in the 1980s and 1990s, overtook the U.S. as the production leader with up to 13 million cars per year manufactured and significant exports. After massive ramp-up by China in the 2000s and fluctuating U.S. output, Japan is currently the third largest automotive producer in the world with an annual production of 9.9 million automobiles in 2012.[1] Japanese investments helped grow the auto industry in many countries throughout the last few decades.[citation needed]

Japanese zaibatsu (business conglomerates) began building their first automobiles in the middle to late 1910s. The companies went about this by either designing their own trucks (the market for passenger vehicles in Japan at the time was small), or partnering with a European brand to produce and sell their cars in Japan under license. Such examples of this are Isuzu partnering with Wolseley Motors (UK), Nissan partnering with British automaker Austin, and the Mitsubishi Model A, which was based upon the Fiat Tipo 3. The demand for domestic trucks was greatly increased by the Japanese military buildup before World War II, causing many Japanese manufacturers to break out of their shells and design their own vehicles. In the 1970s Japan was the pioneer in the use of robotics in the manufacturing of vehicles.

The country is home to a number of companies that produce cars, construction vehicles, motorcycles, ATVs, and engines. Japanese automotive manufacturers include Toyota, Honda, Daihatsu, Nissan, Suzuki, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Isuzu, Kawasaki, Yamaha, and Mitsuoka. Infiniti, Acura, and Lexus are luxury brands of Nissan, Honda and Toyota.

Cars designed in Japan have won the European Car of the Year, International Car of the Year, and World Car of the Year awards many times. Japanese vehicles have had worldwide influence, and no longer have the stigma they had in the 1950s and 1960s when they first emerged internationally, due to a dedicated focus on continual product and process improvement led by Toyota as well as the use of the Five Whys technique and the early adoption of the Lean Six Sigma methodology. Japanese cars are also built in compliance with Japanese Government dimension regulations and engine displacement is further regulated by road tax bracket regulations, which also affects any imported cars sold in Japan.

History[edit]

Early years[edit]

In 1904, Torao Yamaha produced the first domestically manufactured bus, which was powered by a steam engine. In 1907, Komanosuke Uchiyama produced the Takuri, the first entirely Japanese-made gasoline engine car. The Kunisue Automobile Works built the Kunisue in 1910, and the following year manufactured the Tokyo in cooperation with Tokyo Motor Vehicles Ltd. In 1911, Kaishinsha Motorcar Works was established and later began manufacturing a car called the DAT. In 1920, Jitsuyo Jidosha Seizo Co., founded by William R. Gorham, began building the Gorham and later the Lila. The company merged with Kaishinsha in 1926 to form the DAT Automobile Manufacturing Co. (later to evolve into Nissan Motors). From 1924 to 1927, Hakuyosha Ironworks Ltd. built the Otomo. Toyota, a textile manufacturer, began building cars in 1936. Most early vehicles, however, were trucks produced under military subsidy. Isuzu, Yanmar and Daihatsu initially focused on diesel engine development.

The Mitsubishi Model A was produced in 1917

Cars built in Japan before World War II tended to be based on European or American models. The 1917 Mitsubishi Model A was based on the Fiat A3-3 design. (This model was considered to be the first mass-produced car in Japan, with 22 units produced.) In the 1930s, Nissan Motors' cars were based on the Austin 7 and Graham-Paige designs, while the Toyota AA model was based on the Chrysler Airflow. Ohta built cars in the 1930s based on Ford models, while Chiyoda and Sumida, a predecessor of Isuzu, built cars resembling General Motors products 1935 Pontiac, and 1930s LaSalle.[2][3]

Automobile manufacture from Japanese companies was struggling, despite investment efforts by the Japanese Government. The 1923 Great Kantō earthquake devastated most of Japan's fledgling infrastructure and truck and construction equipment manufacturing benefited from recovery efforts. Yanase & Co., Ltd. (株式会社ヤナセ Yanase Kabushiki gaisha) was an importer of American-made cars to Japan and contributed to disaster recovery efforts by importing GMC trucks and construction equipment. By bringing in American products, Japanese manufacturers were able to examine the imported vehicles and develop their own products.

Transportation and mobilization in the early 1900's was largely monopolized by the Japanese Government's Ministry of Railways, and private automobile companies emerged to further modernize the transportation infrastructure.

From 1925 until the beginning of World War II, Ford and GM[4] had factories in Japan, where they dominated the Japanese market. The Ford Motor Company of Japan was established in 1925 and a production plant was set up in Yokohama. General Motors established operations in Osaka in 1927. Chrysler also came to Japan and set up Kyoritsu Motors.[5] Between 1925 and 1936, the United States Big Three automakers' Japanese subsidiaries produced a total of 208,967 vehicles, compared to the domestic producers total of 12,127 vehicles. In 1936, the Japanese government passed the Automobile Manufacturing Industry Law, which was intended to promote the domestic auto industry and reduce foreign competition; ironically, this stopped the groundbreaking of an integrated Ford plant in Yokohama, modeled on Dagenham in England and intended to serve the Asian market, that would have established Japan as a major exporter[citation needed]. Instead by 1939, the foreign manufacturers had been forced out of Japan. Under the direction of the Imperial Japanese Government, the fledgling vehicle production efforts were redirected to heavy duty truck production due to the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Isuzu TX was the result of three Japanese companies combining efforts to manufacture a standardized, military grade heavy duty truck.[6][7]

During World War II, Toyota, Nissan, Isuzu and Kurogane built trucks and motorcycles for the Imperial Japanese Army, with Kurogane introducing the world's first mass-produced four-wheel-drive car, called the Kurogane Type 95 in 1936. For the first decade after World War II, auto production was limited, and until 1966 most production consisted of trucks (including three-wheeled vehicles). Thereafter passenger cars dominated the market. Japanese car designs also continued to imitate or be derived from European and American designs.[8] Exports were very limited in the 1950s, adding up to only 3.1% of the total passenger car production of the decade.[9]

1960s to today[edit]

In the 1960s Japanese manufacturers began to compete head-on in the domestic market, model for model. This was exemplified by the "CB-war" between the most popular compact sedans called the Toyota Corona and the Nissan Bluebird. While this initially led to benefits for consumers, before long R&D expenditures swelled and other companies offered competing compact sedans from Mazda, Subaru, Isuzu, Daihatsu and Mitsubishi. Towards the late 1980s and early 1990s Japanese automobile manufacturers had entered a stage of "Hyper-design" and "Hyper-equipment"; an arms race leading to less competitive products albeit produced in a highly efficient manner.[10]

First Suzuki Wagon R, 1993, bestselling national kei class car

During the 1960s, Japanese automakers launched a bevy of new kei cars in their domestic market; scooters and motorcycles remained dominant, with sales of 1.47 million in 1960 versus a mere 36,000 kei cars.[11] These tiny automobiles usually featured very small engines (under 360cc, but were sometimes fitted with engines of up to 600cc for export) to keep taxes much lower than larger cars. The average person in Japan was now able to afford an automobile, which boosted sales dramatically and jumpstarted the auto industry toward becoming what it is today. The first of this new era, actually launched in 1958, was the Subaru 360. It was known as the "Lady Beetle", comparing its significance to the Volkswagen Beetle in Germany. Other significant models were the Suzuki Fronte, Daihatsu Fellow Max, Mitsubishi Minica, Mazda Carol, and the Honda N360.

The keis were very minimalist motoring, however, much too small for most family car usage. The most popular economy car segment in the sixties was the 700-800 cc class, embodied by the Toyota Publica, Mitsubishi Colt 800, and the original Mazda Familia. By the end of the sixties, however, these (often two-stroke) cars were being replaced by full one-litre cars with four-stroke engines, a move which was spearheaded by Nissan's 1966 Sunny.[12] All other manufacturers quickly followed suit, except for Toyota who equipped their Corolla with a 1.1-litre engine - the extra 100 cc were heavily touted in period advertising. These small family cars took a bigger and bigger share of an already expanding market. All vehicles sold in Japan were taxed yearly based on exterior dimensions and engine displacement. This was established by legislation passed in 1950 that established tax brackets on two classifications; dimension regulations and engine displacement. The taxes were a primary consideration as to which vehicles were selected by Japanese consumers, and guided manufacturers as to what type of vehicles the market would buy.

Export expansion[edit]

Mazda Cosmo 110S, 1967, one of first two mass-produced cars with Wankel rotary engine

Exports of passenger cars increased nearly two hundred-fold in the sixties compared to the previous decade, and were now up to 17.0 percent of the total production.[9] This though, was still only the beginning. Rapidly increasing domestic demand and the expansion of Japanese car companies into foreign markets in the 1970s further accelerated growth. Effects of the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo accelerated vehicle exports along with the exchange rate of the Japanese yen to the U.S. Dollar, UK Pound, and West German Deutsche Mark. Passenger car exports rose from 100,000 in 1965 to 1,827,000 in 1975. Automobile production in Japan continued to increase rapidly after the 1970s, as Mitsubishi (as Dodge vehicles) and Honda began selling their vehicles in the US. Even more brands came to America and abroad during the 1970s, and by the 1980s, the Japanese manufacturers were gaining a major foothold in the US and world markets.

In the early 1970s, the Japanese electronics manufacturers began producing integrated circuits (ICs), microprocessors and microcontrollers for the automobile industry, including ICs and microcontrollers for in-car entertainment, automatic wipers, electronic locks, dashboard, and engine control. The Japanese automobile industry widely adopted ICs years before the American automobile industry.[13]

Japanese cars became popular with British buyers in the early 1970s, with Nissan's Datsun badged cars (the Nissan brand was not used on British registered models until 1983) proving especially popular and earning a reputation in Britain for their reliability and low running costs, although rust was a major problem. Exports were successful enough that Japanese cars were considered a severe threat to many national car industries, such as Italy, France, the United Kingdom, as well as the United States. Import quotas were imposed in several countries, limiting the sales of Japanese-made cars to 3 percent of the overall market in France and 1.5 percent in Italy.[14] As for the United States, the Japanese government was pressured to agree to annual export quotas beginning in 1981.[15] In other countries, such as the United Kingdom, Japanese importers made gentlemen's agreements to limit import in an effort to forestall stricter official quotas. As a result, Japanese manufacturers expanded local production of cars, establishing plants across North America and Europe while also taking advantage of plants already created in third countries not covered by the quotas. Thus, South African-built Daihatsu Charades were sold in Italy and a number of Australian-made Mitsubishis found their way to North America and Europe.[16]

World leader[edit]

Toyota Prius, 2005 European Car of the Year, first and bestselling mass-produced hybrid car

With Japanese manufacturers producing very affordable, reliable, and popular cars throughout the 1990s, Japan became the largest car producing nation in the world in 2000. However, its market share has decreased slightly in recent years, particularly due to old and new competition from South Korea, China and India. Nevertheless, Japan's car industry continues to flourish, its market share has risen again, and in the first quarter of 2008 Toyota surpassed American General Motors to become the world's largest car manufacturer.[17] Today, Japan is the third largest automobile market and, until China recently overtook them, was the largest car producer in the world. Still, automobile export remains one of the country's most profitable exports and is a cornerstone of recovery plan for the latest economic crisis. Even though Japan has been taken over by Mainland China as the world's largest car producer, Japanese imports continue to be widely used on streets and highways in the Chinese special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau.

Timeline[edit]

Statistics[edit]

Production volumes by manufacturer[edit]

The following are vehicle production volumes for Japanese vehicle manufacturers, according to the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA).[19]

Passenger cars
Manufacturer 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Toyota 3,849,353 3,631,146 2,543,715 2,993,714 2,473,546 3,170,000
Nissan 982,870 1,095,661 780,495 1,008,160 1,004,666 1,035,726
Honda 1,288,577 1,230,621 812,298 941,558 687,948 996,832
Suzuki 1,061,767 1,059,456 758,057 915,391 811,689 896,781
Mazda 952,290 1,038,725 693,598 893,323 798,060 830,294
Daihatsu 648,289 641,322 551,275 534,586 479,956 633,887
Subaru 403,428 460,515 357,276 437,443 366,518 551,812
Mitsubishi 758,038 770,667 365,447 586,187 536,142 448,598
Other 25 30 0 0 0 0
Total 9,944,637 9,928,143 6,862,161 8,310,362 7,158,525 8,554,219
Trucks
Manufacturer 2007 2008 2009
Toyota 291,008 271,544 178,954
Suzuki 156,530 158,779 150,245
Daihatsu 138,312 151,935 132,980
Isuzu 236,619 250,692 118,033
Nissan 188,788 189,005 109,601
Mitsubishi 88,045 83,276 61,083
Hino 101,909 101,037 62,197
Subaru 72,422 64,401 51,123
Mitsubishi Fuso 131,055 115,573 49,485
Honda 43,268 33,760 28,626
Mazda 43,221 39,965 23,577
UD Trucks 44,398 45,983 18,652
Other 2,445 2,449 545
Total 1,538,020 1,508,399 985,101
Buses
Manufacturer 2007 2008 2009
Toyota 85,776 109,698 69,605
Mitsubishi Fuso 10,225 10,611 4,982
Nissan 7,422 8,416 4,479
Hino 4,984 5,179 4,473
Isuzu 3,668 3,221 2,077
UD Trucks 1,595 1,977 1,179
Total 113,670 139,102 86,795

Sales rank[edit]

Regular cars[edit]

Top 10 best-selling automobile models in Japan by nameplate[a] (excluding kei vehicles and commercial vehicles), 1990–2020
Source: [20]
Year Models and Ranking
1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th
1990 Toyota Corolla Toyota Mark II Toyota Crown Toyota Carina Toyota Corona Nissan Sunny Honda Civic Mazda Familia Toyota Starlet Toyota Sprinter
1991 Toyota Corolla Toyota Mark II Honda Civic Toyota Crown Toyota Carina Nissan Sunny Toyota Corona Toyota Starlet Toyota Sprinter Nissan Bluebird
1992 Toyota Corolla Toyota Mark II Toyota Crown Honda Civic Nissan Sunny Toyota Starlet Toyota Carina Toyota Corona Nissan March Toyota Sprinter
1993 Toyota Corolla Toyota Mark II Nissan March Nissan Sunny Toyota Crown Honda Civic Toyota Starlet Toyota Estima Toyota Sprinter Toyota Carina
1994 Toyota Corolla Toyota Mark II Nissan March Honda Civic Toyota Crown Nissan Sunny Toyota Estima Toyota Starlet Toyota Carina Toyota Sprinter
1995 Toyota Corolla Nissan March Toyota Crown Honda Odyssey Toyota Mark II Honda Civic Toyota Estima Nissan Sunny Toyota Starlet Toyota Sprinter
1996 Toyota Corolla Toyota Crown Nissan March Toyota Starlet Toyota Mark II Honda Odyssey Honda CR-V Toyota Estima Nissan Sunny Subaru Legacy
1997 Toyota Corolla Nissan March Toyota Mark II Toyota Starlet Honda Stepwgn Toyota Crown Toyota Ipsum Toyota Estima Mazda Demio Honda Odyssey
1998 Toyota Corolla Nissan Cube Mazda Demio Nissan March Toyota Starlet Honda Stepwgn Toyota Mark II Toyota Crown Mitsubishi Chariot Grandis Nissan Sunny
1999 Toyota Corolla Toyota Vitz Honda Stepwgn Toyota Crown Mazda Demio Nissan Cube Toyota Mark II Subaru Legacy Nissan March Toyota TownAce Noah
2000 Toyota Corolla Toyota Vitz Toyota Estima Honda Odyssey Toyota FunCargo Toyota Crown Toyota bB Nissan Cube Honda Stepwgn Mazda Demio
2001 Toyota Corolla Toyota Vitz Honda Stream Toyota Estima Honda Stepwgn Honda Fit Toyota Crown Nissan Cube Honda Odyssey Toyota FunCargo
2002 Honda Fit Toyota Corolla Nissan March Toyota Ist Toyota Vitz Toyota Noah Toyota Estima Toyota Voxy Nissan Cube Honda Mobilio
2003 Toyota Corolla Honda Fit Toyota Wish Nissan Cube Nissan March Toyota Ist Mazda Demio Toyota Noah Toyota Alphard Toyota Estima
2004[21] Toyota Corolla Honda Fit Nissan Cube Toyota Wish Toyota Crown Nissan March Honda Odyssey Toyota Ist Toyota Alphard Toyota Noah
2005[22] Toyota Corolla Toyota Vitz Honda Fit Nissan Tiida Nissan Note Toyota Wish Honda Stepwgn Toyota Passo Toyota Alphard Toyota Crown
2006[23] Toyota Corolla Toyota Vitz Honda Fit Toyota Estima Nissan Serena Honda Stepwgn Toyota Wish Toyota Ractis Toyota Passo Toyota Crown
2007[24] Toyota Corolla Toyota Vitz Honda Fit Toyota Passo Nissan Serena Toyota Estima Toyota Voxy Mazda Demio Nissan Tiida Toyota Noah
2008 Honda Fit Toyota Corolla Toyota Vitz Toyota Crown Toyota Prius Nissan Serena Toyota Passo Toyota Voxy Nissan Tiida Mazda Demio
2009[25] Toyota Vitz Honda Fit Toyota Vitz Toyota Passo Honda Insight Toyota Corolla Honda Freed Nissan Serena Toyota Voxy Nissan Note
2010[26] Toyota Prius Honda Fit Toyota Vitz Toyota Corolla Honda Freed Toyota Passo Honda Stepwgn Nissan Serena Toyota Voxy Nissan Note
2011[27] Toyota Prius Honda Fit Toyota Vitz Nissan Serena Toyota Corolla Honda Freed Mazda Demio Toyota Ractis Toyota Passo Nissan March
2012[28] Toyota Prius Toyota Aqua Honda Fit Honda Freed Toyota Vitz Nissan Serena Nissan Note Toyota Corolla Honda Stepwgn Toyota Vellfire
2013[29] Toyota Aqua Toyota Prius Honda Fit Nissan Note Toyota Corolla Nissan Serena Toyota Vitz Toyota Crown Honda Freed Honda Stepwgn
2014[30] Toyota Aqua Honda Fit Toyota Prius Toyota Corolla Toyota Voxy Nissan Note Honda Vezel Toyota Vitz Nissan Serena Toyota Noah
2015[31] Toyota Aqua Toyota Prius Honda Fit Toyota Corolla Nissan Note Toyota Voxy Toyota Vitz Mazda Demio Honda Vezel Toyota Sienta
2016[32] Toyota Prius Toyota Aqua Toyota Sienta Honda Fit Nissan Note Toyota Voxy Toyota Corolla Honda Vezel Nissan Serena Toyota Vitz
2017[33] Toyota Prius Nissan Note Toyota Aqua Toyota C-HR Honda Freed Honda Fit Toyota Sienta Toyota Vitz Toyota Voxy Nissan Serena
2018[34] Nissan Note Toyota Aqua Toyota Prius Nissan Serena Toyota Sienta Toyota Voxy Honda Fit Toyota Corolla Toyota Vitz Toyota Roomy
2019[35] Toyota Prius Nissan Note Toyota Sienta Toyota Corolla Toyota Aqua Nissan Serena Toyota Roomy Toyota Voxy Honda Freed Toyota Vitz
2020[36] Toyota Yaris Toyota Raize Toyota Corolla Honda Fit Toyota Alphard Toyota Roomy Honda Freed Toyota Sienta Nissan Note Toyota Voxy
1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th
See also : Best-selling models in

Kei cars[edit]

Top 10 best-selling kei cars in Japan by nameplate[a] (excluding kei commercial vehicles), 2005–2020
Year Models and Ranking
1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th
2005[37] Suzuki Wagon R Daihatsu Move Suzuki Alto Honda Life Daihatsu Mira Daihatsu Tanto Mitsubishi eK Nissan Moco Honda That's Suzuki Kei
2006[38] Suzuki Wagon R Daihatsu Move Suzuki Alto Daihatsu Tanto Honda Life Daihatsu Mira Honda Zest Mitsubishi eK Nissan Moco Suzuki MR Wagon
2007[39] Suzuki Wagon R Daihatsu Move Daihatsu Tanto Daihatsu Mira Honda Life Suzuki Alto Nissan Moco Mitsubishi eK Subaru Stella Honda Zest
2008[40] Suzuki Wagon R Daihatsu Move Daihatsu Tanto Honda Life Daihatsu Mira Suzuki Palette Suzuki Alto Nissan Moco Mitsubishi eK Subaru Stella
2009[41] Suzuki Wagon R Daihatsu Move Daihatsu Tanto Daihatsu Mira Suzuki Alto Suzuki Palette Honda Life Nissan Roox Honda Zest Nissan Moco
2010[42] Suzuki Wagon R Daihatsu Tanto Daihatsu Move Suzuki Alto Daihatsu Mira Suzuki Palette Honda Life Nissan Moco Nissan Roox Honda Zest
2011[43] Suzuki Wagon R Daihatsu Move Daihatsu Tanto Daihatsu Mira Suzuki Alto Honda Life Nissan Moco Suzuki Palette Nissan Roox Mitsubishi eK
2012[44] Daihatsu Mira Honda N-Box Suzuki Wagon R Daihatsu Tanto Daihatsu Move Suzuki Alto Nissan Moco Suzuki Palette Nissan Roox Honda Life
2013[45] Honda N-Box Daihatsu Move Suzuki Wagon R Daihatsu Mira Daihatsu Tanto Suzuki Alto Honda N-One Suzuki Spacia Nissan Dayz Nissan Moco
2014[46] Daihatsu Tanto Honda N-Box Suzuki Wagon R Nissan Dayz Honda N-WGN Daihatsu Mira Daihatsu Move Suzuki Spacia Suzuki Alto Suzuki Hustler
2015[47] Honda N-Box Daihatsu Tanto Nissan Dayz Daihatsu Move Suzuki Alto Suzuki Wagon R Honda N-WGN Suzuki Hustler Daihatsu Mira Suzuki Spacia
2016[48] Honda N-Box Daihatsu Move Nissan Dayz Daihatsu Tanto Suzuki Alto Honda N-WGN Suzuki Hustler Suzuki Spacia Daihatsu Mira Suzuki Wagon R
2017[33] Honda N-Box Daihatsu Move Daihatsu Tanto Nissan Dayz Suzuki Wagon R Suzuki Spacia Daihatsu Mira Suzuki Alto Honda N-WGN Suzuki Hustler
2018[34] Honda N-Box Suzuki Spacia Nissan Dayz Daihatsu Tanto Daihatsu Move Daihatsu Mira Suzuki Wagon R Suzuki Hustler Suzuki Alto Honda N-WGN
2019[49] Honda N-Box Daihatsu Tanto Suzuki Spacia Nissan Dayz Daihatsu Move Daihatsu Mira Suzuki Wagon R Suzuki Alto Suzuki Hustler Mitsubishi eK
2020[50] Honda N-Box Suzuki Spacia Daihatsu Tanto Daihatsu Move Nissan Dayz Suzuki Hustler Daihatsu Mira Nissan Roox Honda N-WGN Suzuki Wagon R
1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th
See also : Best-selling models in

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Japan Automobile Dealers Association (JADA) grouped vehicle sales by nameplate, which means different models with the same nameplate such as the Toyota Yaris and Toyota Yaris Cross or the Daihatsu Mira and Daihatsu Mira Gino are counted as a single model.

References[edit]

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Further reading[edit]

Videos

External links[edit]