April 8, 2020

Passenger Car Market Trends in Japan: Summary of Results of JAMA’s Fiscal 2019 Survey

The Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) is pleased to release the results of the survey it conducted in fiscal year 2019 (ended March 31, 2020) on passenger car market trends in Japan. Targeting households nationwide (including single-person households), JAMA conducts this survey once every two years to determine passenger car ownership, use, and purchasing intention trends, and thereby provide a basis for future demand projections.

In the fiscal 2019 survey, an adjunct “special topics” survey was also conducted which focused on advanced alternative-energy vehicles, advanced onboard safety technologies, next-generation vehicle technologies, and on attitudes among the younger and elderly demographics towards passenger car ownership and use.

I. Main Survey: Principal Findings

1. General trends in the passenger car market

  • Passenger car ownership among responding households stood at 79.8%, with continued high ownership rates outside of major urban areas and among high-income earners and families.
  • Sustained growth was seen in mini-sized passenger car (i.e., minicar) ownership, reflecting a continued rise in households’ multiple minicar ownership and continued downsizing from standard or small car ownership to minicar ownership.
  • Confirming a trend, vehicle maintenance costs were cited as one of the main reasons for non-ownership of a car by a larger number of respondents than in the previous passenger car survey conducted in fiscal 2017. The intent to purchase a car going forward remained low.

2. Demographic trends in passenger car use and trends in use purposes

  • Survey results showed a continued rise in the proportion of women drivers, who accounted for almost 50% of all principal drivers.
  • “Shopping and errands” remained the leading purpose of car use. Just under 50% of respondents indicated that vehicle maintenance costs pose a financial burden.

3. Purchasing trends

  • Vehicle replacement purchases made by respondents were mainly for a passenger car in the same category and class as their previous car.
  • Survey results confirmed the continuing trend of longer periods of ownership prior to making a replacement purchase.

4. Projected ownership and purchasing trends

  • As in the previous survey, some respondents expressed their intention to reduce the number of vehicles they own and extend the period of current vehicle ownership before making a replacement purchase.
  • For future purchases, the intention to replace a currently owned passenger car with a new vehicle of the same class remained strong. Approximately 40% of the survey respondents affirmed their intention to purchase a vehicle equipped with next-generation engine technology.

II. Adjunct “Special Topics” Survey: Principal Findings

1. Awareness of advanced alternative-energy vehicles

  • While there was little change from the previous survey in the extent of awareness of all types of advanced alternative-energy vehicles, survey results revealed an increased receptivity to such vehicles as well as a growing number of respondents who expressed their intent to make a purchase in this market segment in the future. However, high vehicle prices were acknowledged as an obstacle to purchasing.

2. Awareness of advanced onboard safety technologies

  • Survey results revealed a high demand for onboard active safety technologies that mitigate driver errors, in part owing to media coverage of accidents involving senior citizens.

3. Awareness of next-generation vehicle technologies

  • Just under 50% of survey respondents indicated an interest in automated driving technology, and just over 40% of respondents indicated an interest in seeing level-3 automated driving technology become a reality.
  • Approximately 50% of survey respondents were aware of ultra-compact mobility vehicles, with about 10% of all respondents affirming their understanding of the characteristics of such vehicles and a further 10% expressing an intent to purchase one. Overall, about 20% of survey respondents expressed an intent to actually purchase or otherwise use an ultra-compact mobility vehicle.
  • With regard to connected services and functions, those that ranked the highest among survey responses in terms of intent of use were: automatic updates to navigation-system map data; theft-prevention and theft-reporting services; and big data-based traffic information services.

4. Awareness of different types of vehicle ownership

  • Growing intent to use carsharing (i.e., short-term rental) services was more prevalent among respondents in the greater Tokyo region than among respondents in other parts of Japan.

5. Attitudes to passenger car use among the elderly demographic

  • Respondents aged 60 or older affirmed their desire to continue to drive and their hope that a decline in physical capabilities could be counterbalanced by the use of advanced safety technologies. Approximately 80% of elderly respondents expressed their intent to purchase another car.

6. Attitudes to passenger car use among the younger demographic

  • There was recognition among respondents in this demographic of the merits of car use and, compared to other age groups, a strong “intent to use carsharing” services and “interest in autonomous vehicles.”

7. Vehicle ownership-related costs

  • There was a strong consensus among survey respondents that automobile ownership-related costs are a financial burden and rank high among costs that respondents would like to see reduced in the future. Respondents whose annual vehicle maintenance costs totaled up to 300,000 yen wished to see those costs reduced by approximately 100,000 yen.

8. Relationship of vehicle purchase-financing strategies and advanced safety technologies to the replacement cycle

  • A larger proportion of respondents than in the previous survey affirmed their use of residual value loans, and the fact that the use of such loans has led to a shortening of the vehicle replacement cycle. Advanced safety technologies also appear to be encouraging earlier vehicle replacement.

Complete survey results are posted online, in Japanese only, on JAMA’s website at http://www.jama.or.jp/lib/invest_analysis/four-wheeled.html.