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What Do the Japanese Know That We Don't About Hybrids?


What do the Japanese know about hybrid-electric vehicles that Americans don't? Or is it the other way around? HEVs had a several-year head start in the Japanese market, and there are more versions on sale there. Yet sales there are all but nonexistent. Even adjusted for the comparative size of the two markets, Japanese buyers simply don't seem to care about the fuel-efficient technology, despite major industry promotional campaigns.

You'd think it would be the other way around. Until recently, fuel was cheap here, dear in Japan, where they pay only slightly less than in Europe. And Japanese drivers face some of the toughest traffic jams on the planet, perfect for HEVs, which need stop-and-go conditions to recharge their batteries. Ironically, products like the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight are tuned to Japanese roadways, so for many Americans driving on open highways, they fall far short of mileage expectations.

Did I mention the ongoing Japanese love affair with things technological? Put a computer chip in it, and virtually anything will find a place in the Asian market. Except hybrids. Why? I wish I could give a good answer. No one I've spoken to has a convincing argument. Maybe the Japanese simply realize that hybrids don't deliver the value for the dollar manufacturers are claiming? Maybe they're worried about reliability? Hard to say, but for now, Japanese makers have to hope hybrid demand keeps growing in the U.S.
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Comments (7)
  1. Too bad you don't have data to back up your contention of sales being "all but non-existant".

    Here's data showing Japanese Prius sales pretty much on scale with what they are in the US. Those numbers being as low as they are simply b/c of lack of supply, not b/c of lack of demand.

    Don'tcha just hate it when someone screws up a perfectly good blog with actual data?

    Below is my personal list derived from the following monthly report...
    http://www.jada.or.jp/contents/data/ranking/index.php

    Monthly Prius sales in CY2003
    SEP OCT NOV DEC
    Japan 3,661 3,520 3,478 4,083
    Japan-T 3,661 7,181 10,659 14,742
    US 4,085 5,584 4,025
    US-Total 4,085 9,669 13,694

    Monthly Prius sales in CY2004
    JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC
    Japan 4,235 4,870 6,130 5,051 5,806 6,740 6,180 3,810 4,386 4,384 (8,169)
    Japan-T 4,235 9,105 15,235 20,286 26,092 32,832 39,012 42,822 47,208 51,592 59,761
    US 2,925 3,215 3,778 3,684 3,962 4,219 5,230 4,393 4,309 6,123 5,866 6,287
    US-Total 2,925 6,140 9,918 13,602 17,564 21,783 27,013 31,406 35,715 41,838 47,704 53,991

    Monthly Prius sales in CY2005
    JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP
    Japan 2,952 4,414 4,679 3,346 3,267 4,378 4,238 3,455 3,620
    Japan-T 2,952 7,366 12,045 15,391 18,658 23,036 27,274 30,729 34,349
    US 5,566 7,078 10,236 11,345 9,461 9,622 9,691 9,850 8,193
    US-Total 5,566 12,644 22,880 34,225 43,686 53,308 62,999 72,849 81,042
     
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  2. Evan, what percentage of Toyotas sold in Japan are Priuses, compared to the US?
     
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  3. 135,519 cars were sold by Toyota in Japan in Sept. '05
    Looking at the chart 3620 of those were Prii.
    I make that about 2.7%

    For the year to date 1,315,483 sales total, 34349 of which were Prii for 2.6%.

    Again, production is being ramped up as we speak. Sales are limited not by lack of demand but by things such as lack of HV batteries, Inverter and Power Split Device production. Several steps have been taken lately to remedy those issues and Toyota has high expectations for putting out many more hybrids in the coming year to meet what is still a very high demand.
     
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  4. In fairness, I should add that Insight and Honda Civic Hybrid sales are not nearly as good (Insight is particularly poor) in Japan.
     
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  5. One other reason for the lack of intrest in hybreds, if there actually is one, is that many cars in Japan are not driven nearly as far as cars in the US.

    I am not saying I am typical, but my 1991 Primera (your Infiniti G20) has just turned over 36,000 km. At 2,600 km/year it would take me a Loooong time to recoup the extra cost, even at $4.75/gal.
     
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  6. Isn't the point being missed that the average Japanese vehicle (in Japan) already gets terrific fuel economy?

    My guess is a Japanese vehicle owner who's Honda/Toyota/Nissan/whatever already gets 35-40 mpg doesn't give a whit about paying the upcharge for a hybrid.
     
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  7. Hy, is possible to know where i can find detailes sales numbers for Hybrid vehicles sold in Japan?

    With the informations posted By Evan and a Translator (that leave most of the word untranslated unfortunatly) i was able to find most of the monthly sales for the Toyota Prius, but i dont know now to find the sales numbers for the others Hybrids that maybe in Japan have also another name.

    Thank You in advance for your help.
     
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