Japan: No end to the auto sales gloom

Japanese auto makers are doing just fine almost everywhere but back home sales keep on slumping. According to figures released today, registered car sales in March slumped 12.6% to 487,738 vehicles—the 21st consecutive year-on-year monthly decline. Few expect a turnaround. Mazda, for example, released a new four-year business plan on March 22 which only aims for flat sales in Japan through March 2011. In the mature markets of U.S. and Europe, Mazda is shooting for growth of 10%-20%.

One big problem is that most Japanese families are happier to hang on to their main car longer and the second car, if they have one at all, is increasingly likely to be a low-cost, 660cc minicar which aren’t included in the registered sales numbers.

Another is that Japan’s population started shrinking in 2005. That means even minicar specialists that churn out the 660cc runarounds can only hope for limited long-term growth in Japan. It also goes some way to exlain why why fast-growing Indian sales at Suzuki may, for the first time ever, be higher than those in Japan this year.

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