Japan's men shun autos--and beer

It’s no secret that Japan’s auto market is a tough sell. Monthly sales have fallen year-on-year for 25 months in row. Even Toyota is down 9.6% this year. Nevertheless, a new survey by the Nikkei, Japan’s biggest business paper, gives an interesting insight into why things are so gloomy. One growing problem is that young men just don’t care about cars as they once did.

According to the survey, only 13% of the 20-something respondents in the Tokyo area said they had a car, compared to 23.6% in 2000. Much more worrying for automakers, those wanting a car slumped from 48.2% in 2000 to 25.3%. That’s despite Japan’s economic recovery which has seen unemployment fall below 4% and rises in disposable income.

Japanese men are also driving shorter distances. Another survey by the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA), finds that the average vehicle in Japan was driven just 265 miles a month in 2005, down 8% from 1993. The growing indifference to driving may also explain why the average life of a Japanese car has increased from 9.3 years to 11.1 years in the last decade.

It’s small comfort for Toyota and co but they’re not only segment suffering. According to the Nikkei survey, beer makers are also out of favor among Japan’s youth. Almost 35% of those in their 20s said they drank less than once a month, significantly less often than elder Japanese. When asked why they’re down on drinking, “waste of money” was the most popular explanation.