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Minicar Sales in Japan Climb On Higher Gas Prices; Other Cars Drop

Nikkei. Sales of new minivehicles in Japan rose for a fourth straight month in April, while sales of all other types of automobiles dropped for the 10th consecutive month, according to data released Monday by the Japan Automobile Dealers Association.

Minicars sales climbed 5.2% to 149,367 units in April, led by Suzuki with 48,000 units (2.1% increase) and by Daihatsu Motor’s 45,000 units (1.6% increase).

Total sales of new vehicles, excluding minicars, fell 7.8% from a year earlier to 242,596 units. Sales of passenger cars dropped 10.8% to around 201,000 vehicles. Toyota, Nissan and Honda all suffered declines. Nissan’s 27% plunge was its seventh straight monthly decrease.

Truck sales, however, jumped 11.3% to roughly 40,000 units on the growing purchases of trucks that conform to tighter emission regulations.

Gasoline prices in and around Tokyo and Osaka shot up about ¥10 per liter on Monday—the beginning of the Golden Week holidays—with prices for regular gas ranging between ¥132 and ¥140 per liter (US$4.40–$4.67 per gallon).

Japanese oil wholesalers have raised their prices in response to rising crude oil prices, and retailers have raised their prices to pass costs on to consumers.


Adrian Akau

With oil and gas prices continuing to climb, I see no choice other than the movement to minicars in the US, especially if the price of gasoline should reach $4-$5 per gallon. A $100 tax rebate from the government will not go very far even with a 20mpg car. We have to be thinking in terms of cars that can travel a minmum of about 40mpg at the present gas costs and who knows what it should be by next year. That is why the development of the PHEV is so important.


"A $100 tax rebate from the government will not go very far even with a 20mpg car."

You try to make it sound as if a 20mpg car is something astounding. I don't have a hybrid or a diesel and I achieve 38mpg mixed driving in a car that can run the 1/4 mile in just under 15 seconds.


I'm riding my scooter to work at least a couple days a week now. I get at least 65mpg. I've gotten as high as 72. Scooters are much more popular in Japan than here, though sales are rising in the double digits. I just wish they'd bring the new Reflex (Forza, there) to the US.


Minicars as such are not likely to get very far in the US. Aside from the cultural elements ("small cars = un-American" mentalities) , crash safety regulations make it pretty much impossible to sell anything smaller than a Honda Fit (96.5" wheelbase, 157" total length, 2500 lbs.) in this country.

Even the Scion xA comes in at a similar 93.3" wheelbase(154" total length) and 2400 lbs. By contrast, a nice minicar, the Daewoo Matiz (as a GM subsidiary, Daewoo sells the Matiz under Chevy, Pontiac and other nameplates in various international markets) has a 92.1" wheelbase, 137" total length, and weighs around 1800 lbs. It gets great mileage (typically estimated at 45 mpg, averaging city and highway), but is both light and tiny, making it a safety risk. An American company (GM) makes it, but they can't sell it in this country.

I once read in an IIHS document that size is far more important than weight, as a rule of thumb, when estimating safety. A car built with light materials, but physically expansive, has room to crumple and slow the radical deceleration which is the root of most accident injuries. It is therefore fairly safe. Furthermore, smart engineering, and the use of advanced features like ABS, stability control and side-impact airbags, both reduce the chances of crashing, and the severity of a crash if one should happen.

High weight contributes to poor economy far more than large size contributes to poor economy. It is possible to maintain expansiveness for the sake of safety while reducing weight for the sake of economy. Parking in tight spots would remain an issue.

In truth, we could increase overall fleet economy and crash safety in this country by simply moving as many motorists as possible out of SUVs / pickup trucks and into medium or large sedans. As I have previously observed, sedans are typically safer than light trucks of the same overall weight and passenger capacity (less prone to roll over, in large part), and also get better mileage. Someone once suggested a tax scheme, where vehicles with worse mileage than 30 MPG would pay extra taxes, while vehicles with better mileage would get a rebate. That's not a bad idea. Enacting a similar one based on safety would also be a good idea, and would likely (perhaps to some motorists' surprise) result in more transfer from SUVs to medium cars than transfer from modern, well built small cars to medium cars. Optional side impact airbags would basically pay for themselves. Encouraging both better economy and reduced accident injuries is good for this country.

The next step would be to increase incentives for moving over to hybrid or alternative fuel systems. Hybrids could open the door to plug in technologies, while retaining the flexibility of a quick fill up while on longer trips. FFVs could take advantage of cheap cellulostic ethanol, which might be in the offing over the next five years. Hybrid FFVs could do both; hydrogen is, at best, a solution for our children.

Adrian Akau

I recall, according to my reading, that in 1906 people were throwing rocks and rubbish at cars as they passed bcause they thought these would never take the place of horses and were piles of junk. That was the "American mentality" in those days. Well, 100 years later, we have this same mentality applied to small cars. Yet, it is the large vehicles that are so wasteful with gasoline. Is it our "American mentality" such that we must be wasteful individuals. I think not. Once the public realizes that they are being taken for a song and a dance by the oil companies and that the thumb screws will be further tightened as the years roll by with gasoline climbing up and up each year, then I think that the "American mentality" will change. We will have to swallow our pride and realize that the good times are not forever when it comes to gasoline.

All past civilizations have declined for one reason or another. I hope ours will not go down because we are unable to adapt to the coming oil shortages and price spikes. We have to be honest with ourselves and face what we believe will happen and brace ourselves to be prepared. It would be foolish to assume otherwise. This "American mentality" is about to be subjected to a lot of pressure. What about Social Security giving out early? How is the "American mentality" going to adapt to that?


Sadly enough, “American mentality” (Canadian too) implies that things generally are of two types: good and small. This applies to houses and cars first of all. Most of small cars sold in America were and are really crapy. Handful of really good small cars sold here eventually went out of sales due to small volume. However, sky high resale value of CRX, NX2000, or Corrado implies that there are people who value good small cars. Hopefully it will change.


my favorite car was a geo storm. quick enough, and ugly enough to be cute again. at 6'5, i barely fit, but i loved it anyway.

but that was not a minicar. it had a 1.5 liter engine. the minicar class of vehicles have 660 cc or smaller engines. their engines generaly have an output in the 50-60 hp range.

fine for around town, but i can't imagine them on US streets.

no, the US fleet needs to move smaller and more efficient, but minicars are not needed just yet.

standardizing the vehicle standards so that a passenger vehicle is a passenger vehicle whether it is a truck or a car would be a good step towards greater efficiency of the US fleet. this is the opposite of what the US is doing with the new class-by-class fuel economy standards.

let market forces work instead of giving an advantage to building larger vehicles by allowing worse fuel economy.


Bring on the minis for use in city streets. Reserve the larger vehicles for areas where the speed limit is over 35 mph. Institute a mandatory car share program in cities and ban everything else. Minimize car use by pedestrianizing inner cities to the maximum extent possible. The goal should be to minimize car use so that the size/technology of vehicles will be increasingly irrelevant in cities.

Harvey D.

Well built, high efficiency mini and compact cars/vehicles, not unnecessary huge (2 to 3-ton) 4 x 4 (VUS, Pick-ups and ultra-large cars) should be the norm on city streets. Applying London style special inner-city tax on large vehicles (over 3000-lbs?)could help.

Fixing our addiction to unnecessary huge vehicles could do a lot to reduce imported oil consumption and air pollution. Who needs huge RAM 4 x 4 (or equivalent) to drive the kids to school, go to work down town or go shopping?



Join US army.


Americans in general are quick to blame others for their problems. When it comes to the price of fuel blame the oil companies, blame the auto manufacturers, blame the urbanization that makes us drive ever increasingly further for services,blame the government, blame everybody but me.
We as a nation have to realize that this situation is not going away and are going to have to drive smaller cars, have our houses a little cooler in the winter and a little warmer in the summer just to survive.
We have no one to blame but our glutonous appetite to be the biggest, baddest, and fastest society in the world.

Richard Burton

How about this for a partial solution;

The basic model of the concept is that of the "baseline energy usage" model currently in place with public utilities in Calif-consumers get the first predetermined amount of their gas and electric utility consumption at a reduced rate, and any energy used over that amount at market rates.With utilities, the amount of baseline rate is largely based upon whether the house/apartment relies solely on electricity for heating purposes. The PC sets the rates and usage allowance, and the utility applies it to the consumer's bill.
With vehicle usage, the vast majority of gas stations now dispense gas thru pumps that are calibrated to read and accept credit cards. California driver's licenses are already credit card size and imprinted with electronic data. Presumably it would not be difficult to either modify the pumps and/or the driver's licenses so that the pump could determine if the license holder who inserts his/her license requesting their baseline usage has already used up their allocation or not for the week or month. Riders could also insert their own licenses to contributed their unused baseline gas for the driver so that car pooling would be encouraged.
Variations in the amount of baseline usage would, and should, reflect the legitimate needs of person's whose work (or other necessary,socially desirable usage) necessitates the unavoidable extra consumption of fuel.Graduated usage rates which promote the steady, but not abrupt switch to more energy efficient vehicles, and their usage, could be implemented.
Monies collected beyond baseline rates could be designated by the legislature,and implemented by a commission of sorts for many uses, including, but not limited to;
Promoting public transportation;
trails, bicycle commuting routes
means of transport which have reduced energy consumption/and/or less pollution
subsidized gas for those in dire need
fixing existing roads
creating more pedestrian and bicycle friendly street crossings and sidewalks


Ralph - that may be the most honest post I've read on this forum.

I find that we have a kind of power struggle in our own house between conservation and excess waste. We recently purchased an economy car to save on fuel and a 6000+ pound truck to pull our newly purchased 27' fifth wheel camper all over the state on weekends. To add to the insanity - our house is already in the woods - go figure.

tom deplume

While weight is a factor in fuel mileage horsepower is a greater factor. Look at the Dodge Sprinter which gets 25 mpg while weghing as much as SUVs that get only 12 mpg.

allen zheng

All good points, to various degrees. How about a program to car pool. Use automated parking garages to increase parking spaces without using up large chunks of land. They would be built around highway entrances/exits. Congestion pricing and/or taking existing lanes on highways as toll/hov/mov lanes. Buses and vans could be part of this scheme. Commuter rail stations could convert their street level parking lots to multilevel automated ones. Then increase service by adding trains and constructing bypass lanes for more flexible use of peak direction express trains. In NYC, and esp. LA, the increase of service on commuter/subway lines with less use (J,M,Z lines in NYC, most lines in LA). Carrot and stick, access and time.
Instituted first in cities with the worst traffic problems, and largest populations (LA, NYC, Houston, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Atlanta) and rapidly implemented in smaller and less congested cities, it could decrease smog/GHG/pollutants, traffic, wasted time (time is money), fuel use, wear and tear, etc, etc, etc.
Smog/GHG/Pollutants: Oil/antifreeze spilled/leaked, brake pad/disk particulates, CO2, NO, etc.
Traffic: 20-50% off roads.
Wasted time: Less cars, less congestion/ traffic accidents, GOT TO GET TO WORK OR I'LL GET FIRED/ MISS CLIENT/MEETING TOLL SPEED LANE, some drivers sit in traffic for 25 min-hours each day while they could be doing something else (productive). Also emergency vehicle travel time.
Fuel use: Less cars, less fuel. As much as 50% of the 9+ million bbl of gasoline could be trimmed off on workdays.
Wear and tear: Drive less=less wear and tear=less depreciation=$$$
Etc, Etc, Etc...: More time with kids/family=more stable families=less divorce, less teenage mischief, more stable and harmonious society/community (by a bit). More time available could mean a bigger economy, one way or another; recreation, work (charitable, or for $$$), less time stuck behind the wheel to do things (news, e-mail, etc.). More time for exercise=less obesity/diabetes (or maybe not).

allen zheng

Tom: Diesel van=more efficient, but cool.

allen zheng

Tom: Diesel van=more efficient, but cool.


The Sprinters that get 24 MPG (highway) seem to be diesel powered, from what I've seen. The SUVs that get 13 MPG (city) tend to be gasoline powered. See, for example, the 2006 Chevy Suburban 1500 AWD. That model, by the way, gets 17 MPG on the highway. The traditional diesel advantage (30% better economy, even in engines of similar size, weight and power output) explains most of the difference between the two vehicles, especially on the highway.

The rest of the difference in highway cruising economy, and a good part of the difference in city driving economy actually can be attributed to better design and using an engine with more modest output. But one should be wary of overstating the case for smaller engines.

Smaller engines make a bigger difference in city driving than in highway driving. In highway cruising, the output demanded from the engine is constant and usually fairly modest -- often around 20 hp. Getting that output from a small engine instead of an overlarge one does help economy, but only around 15% in most cases. In the city, since you are making more stops, and consequently making more starts, a larger engine leaves you with greater temptation and ability to leap forward from the line, placing huge horsepower demands on the engine and consuming plenty of gas to meet those demands. Plus, as you accelerate up the gears, you will often be running the engine at inefficient RPMs. With a more measured rate of acceleration -- which a small engine forces you to have -- you get a more efficient start from a traffic light. A hybrid, of course, is an attempt to have the best of both worlds: Quick, efficient, high-torque acceleration from the stop (using electric motors) and very efficient, long range crusing capabilities (using a well-tuned small displacement gasoline motor running only at its most efficient settings). Regenerative breaking helps charge the electric batteries and is icing on the cake, but is not the main draw. Shutdown at traffic lights is also good. But downsizing the motor and, especially, avoiding running it over inefficient acceleration profiles is the main trick.


I should sum up the results this way:

For two vehicles of the same size, shape and weight, the one with the smaller engine will have slightly better highway mileage, significantly better city mileage, and accelerate more slowly.

For two vehicles of the same size, shape and engine capacity, the lighter one will have slightly better highway mileage, significantly better city mileage, and probably accelerate a bit more readily. (Weight affects acceleration from a stop, while size and shape affect wind resistance at cruising speed, and therefore highway mileage.)

A lighter vehicle with a smaller engine will have equal performance and better city mileage than a similarly sized and shaped heavier vehicle with a larger engine. Its highway mileage will likely be slightly better. (Somewhat better efficiency due to smaller engine, somewhat reduced rolling resistance due to lower weight, similar wind resistance.)

A smaller, lighter and lower powered car will be more efficient in all normal conditions of use than a larger, heavier and more powerful one. We already know that.

Recall also that physical size is more important to safety than sheer weight, so a similarly sized but somewhat lighter car is basically just as safe as its heavier cousin.

Stacey Wilson

right, Americans should learn to curb their appetite for the big cars -- and practice good driving habits.

Adrian Akau

During WWII, people in my part of the country were issued rationing cards because we had rationing of food and fuel. If worse came to worse, we could again use this type of system with gasoline and diesel. Each month a family would pay for its quota by purchasing a gas quota card or something equivalent to it and then decide how that quota was to be used.

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