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Vehicle Ownership Falls In Japan

Nikkei. According to the latest data, the number of vehicles owned in Japan, including minicars and motorcycles, totaled 79.43 million as of 29 Feb, down 0.2% for the year. The figure also fell for December and January. Comparable data has been available only since 1963, but this is likely the first three-month drop since World War II.

The number of vehicles in Japan has started declining, a trend that will not only have an impact on related businesses, such as insurers, repair shops and gas stations, but also affect the nation’s road-building policy.

The number of vehicles owned as of Feb. 29 fell in 30 prefectures, such as Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto, while rising in 17 prefectures, including Aichi, Saitama and Chiba. The steepest fall, 1.7%, occurred for vehicles with engines of more than 660 cc, which include cargo and passenger vehicles. Minicar ownership, however, rose 2.8%. New-vehicle sales peaked at 7.77 million units in 1990, and 2007 sales were 30% off that record.

While the downtrend may be good news for the environment because it will help reduce carbon dioxide emissions, the nation’s road-building policy may need to be revamped. The current plan to spend 59 trillion yen over 10 years is based on the assumption that vehicle traffic volume will peak in 2020.


David Grenier

Well, all the money spent on roads could just as well be spent on trains.

I'm assuming this decline has to do with the aging of the population, and not with people suddenly giving up vehicles for environmental reasons. But I could be wrong.


Given that the planners were expecting a peak of vehicles around 2020, it is more likely other socio-economic reasons behind this decline. This can be partially seen in the types of vehicles being sold and where.

Hopefully this trend will continue if the reasons behind it are positive like increased public transportation use in areas like Tokyo.

Harvey D

As people retire, most couples go from two to one car and to zero car for the last few years of their live.

An aging population means less cars. That may be what is happening in Japan.



You are right about this being due to an aging population if by aging you mean dying. The CIA world factbook lists Japan's population growth rate at a negative .139%. So a negative growth rate of .2% in the number of cars is probably related.


...just my view from Tokyo. Public transport is rather good, better than in London.
Less Diesel cars on the road (except lorries and busses), no black neck or ears (no black booger too). You get these things in London thanks to the widespread Diesel use. Even general air quality seem too be better than in London. Again, less Diesels, less NOX.


I recently sold my car in Tokyo (for nothing - no resale value) due to high cost of fuel, insurance, 2 year compulsory safety check, monthly parking fee, high toll road costs and the fact that the rail system here is the best in the world. (People dont commute by car in Tokyo). Now if I need a car I just rent one. It works out cheaper and I can get the newest vehicles with the best mileage. The rent a car saleman told me that many people are doing this lately. Gas is now 160 yen per liter (up 40% in a year). On my morning commute there is a sign in the train comparing CO2 output by travelling on train, bus and car. 11kg/km, 50kg/km and 170kg/km respectively. I dont need any more reason than that to reduce my use of a car.

ROad building is a pork barrelling exercise of the grandest scale. Some of the regional toll roads are great. No traffic at all. That is, they are not necessary. If they invested the money on other forms of regional renewal some of the decline in population may be reversed. And car manufacturers need to come up with real alternatives to ICEs soon or they will loose more customers.

Paul Barter

Vehicle ownership statistics can be dodgy. But this is interesting in light of reports in January that Nissan is worried about the declining Japanese interest in cars. Also in January, Japan's young people were reported to be less interested in owning cars than recent generations.

People shouldn't try to read too much of their own views of Japanese populations into this, especially since it doesn't talk about an aging population at all.

The steepest fall occured in engine sizes above 600cc, while minicar ownership increased. That and where the increases/decreases are the important facts.

The fact that they expected vehicle ownership to peak in 2020 sort of shows that this is not an age related trend.

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