It’s been a long time coming but auto sales in Japan have, at least temporarily, stopped falling. Auto sales, excluding mini vehicles, rose 2% to 269,221 in October, the first monthly rise, year-on year, since June 2005.
Predictably, Toyota takes the credit for the October turnaround. Toyota and affiliates grew sales 6% to 138,000 units. Remarkably, when yet-to-be-announced minicar sales from its Daihatsu arm are added, Toyota’s overall market share top 50% for the first time. The company’s previous best month for Japan market share was 49.6% in November 2006. That should please Toyoda family scion Akio Toyoda, who was given the unenviable task of boosting Japan sales earlier this year.
Toyoda can thank a healthy pipeline of new models for the record breaking market share. This year, Toyota has launched a new vehicle in Japan every month since May, including a new Land Cruiser SUV in September and the boxy Corolla Rumion, a hatchback only for Japan, last month.
Still, there’s little reason for celebration at Toyota or other Japanese carmakers just yet. Japan, the world’s third largest car market after the U.S. and China, remains on course for one of its worst years for auto sales in generation and will almost certainly sell fewer cars than last year, itself the worst in 20 years. What’s more, many analysts expect the downwards sales trend to resume before too long.