Registrations of Fiat SpA (F)’s ultra-luxury brand surged 40 percent to 144 vehicles in Japan last quarter, according to the Japan Automobile Importers Association yesterday. That’s more than twice the pace in the larger U.S. market, while demand is slumping in China, at home and across Europe.
The surge in demand for luxury cars adds to signs that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda are succeeding in reviving spending in the country. Stock prices are climbing back to levels before the September 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and households have become more confident about the economic outlook.
“The growth is very promising, and I think we can expect these super luxury brands to introduce more models that they hadn’t introduced to Japan before and to strengthen their dealership networks,” said Yoshiaki Kawano, a Tokyo-based auto analyst at industry researcher IHS Automotive. “The optimism for an economic recovery is spreading.”
Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average (NKY) climbed 1.6 percent to 12,833.64, the highest since September 2008, in Tokyo after Kuroda yesterday announced unprecedented stimulus in his first policy meeting.
To sustain growth, Ferrari opened a new after-service facility in Japan this month, said Herbert Appleroth, head of the company’s operations in the country.
“We are ever more committed to offer a quality of service to cater to the needs of our growing number of Japanese clients in every step of ownership,” Appleroth said.
For the fiscal year ended March, Ferrari registrations in Japan increased 46 percent to a 12-year high of 558, according to the import group. The company’s not alone in seeing a boom as Volkswagen AG (VOW)’s Lamborghini sold 199 vehicles, the most in at least 14 years, and sales of imported cars worth more than 10 million yen ($105,000) have risen two straight years, based on the registration data.
“It seems like demand is coming back,” said Michiaki Ishida, a spokesman for the auto importers association. “Some people are reacting to Abenomics, so the trend may continue.”
Behind Japan’s revival is Abe’s campaign to weaken the yen, which has fallen about 18 percent in the past six months. His efforts are being complemented by his handpicked Bank of Japan (8301) governor, Kuroda, who yesterday announced doubling of monthly bond purchases to reverse 15 years of deflation.
Cornes Motors Ltd., which operates dealerships in Japan that sell cars, including those manufactured by Bentley Motors Ltd. and Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc (RR/), is opening a showroom in Tokyo tomorrow that will stock exclusively Maserati SpA vehicles.
Maserati is targeting sales of 650 vehicles in Japan this year compared with 311 last year, Fabrizio Cazzoli, the company’s country director said in an interview today.
“Every day there is good news about Japan,” he said at the Cornes dealership. “Japan is the world’s third biggest car market, and it’s a very important market for us to expand in.”
Household sentiment on the economic outlook in a year’s time rose to a record high last quarter, BOJ (8301) data showed this week, while the percentage saying they expect prices to rise in one year was the highest since September 2008.
Still, Japan is home to the world’s largest Ferrari owners’ club with more than 600 members, according to the group’s website. The cheapest Ferrari model available in Japan, the California 30, starts from 23.9 million yen. The company has no plans of raising prices in Japan despite the weaker yen said Maki Kataoka, a Tokyo-based representative for Ferrari.
Outside of Japan and the U.S., where Ferrari sales climbed 19 percent in the first quarter, demand isn’t as great.
Though comparable January-to-March figures weren’t available, Ferrari and Maserati saw sales in China -- the world’s biggest auto market -- fall during the first two months of the year, according to LMC Automotive estimates. Lamborghini saw a 14 percent increase, though that was slower than the overall light-vehicle market’s growth, according to LMC.
In Europe, sales of Ferrari and Maserati fell 40 percent in the first two month of the year to about 480 units, according to European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association data. In its home market of Italy, Ferrari sales fell 36 percent.
“Europe is weaker than last year, the U.S. is strong, Asia Pacific is holding,” Lamborghini Chief Executive Officer Stephan Winkelmann said in an interview at the company’s headquarters in Northern Italy last month. “China is getting weaker. It was already weakening last year but this year there is no sign of it getting stronger.”
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