Japan: A new car? No thanks.

Word on the street is that the Japanese economy isn't doing too well, with sluggish car sales apparently causing a major drag. Who is to blame? Some say the kids, who have apparently lost their urge to buy material things.

Bloggers writing about the reports of shrinking car sales this week, in any case, didn't seem terribly surprised by the news. One blogger explained:


Excluding light vehicles, sales of new cars in Japan reportedly decreased for the fourth year in a row. The cause of this appears to be influenced by Japan's decrease in population (aging [population]), the sudden price rise in gasoline, and young people's loss of interest in cars.


Certainly as [Japan becomes] an aging society, the number of people who actually drive cars decreases, and also it may be that today's young people do not find cars such attractive things anymore. In the case of freeters and temporary employees, buying and maintaining a car must also be financially very difficult….


For those people who live in the rural areas, cars are essential for daily life. In all honesty though, living in the city, I would not go to the extent to say that I would be “definitely in trouble without one”. In the case of our household, we have small children, so certainly [a car] is convenient, but…


To take the example of our home, for transportation, you can get to the nearest station by foot in around 10 minutes, and it's only about 3 minutes to the bus stop. If you think in terms of everyday life as well, there is a large supermarket in front of the station and a small one just a 30 minute walk from our home. There are two convenience stores around 3 minutes away, and there are no lack of hospitals within walking distance.


I only drive on my days off, when going shopping for my family, or for travel or leisure. My wife also has a license, but to park in the parking lot of our home, special skill is needed, so she doesn't drive. Our yearly mileage is on the order of four to five thousand kilometers, so considering maintenance costs, I think perhaps it's cheaper to use a taxi or rent-a-car when a car is needed. Because if you think about it, having a car in the city is, in a certain sense, a “luxury”.

Blogger sado-mujina, meanwhile, likes their old car fine:


The number of cars being sold has decreased, I think, not only because owning a car is completely unnecessary in urban areas, but also because, as of at least ten years ago, the performance of cars has improved, and therefore even an old car runs more than well enough.


The 12-year-old Cresta I bought three years ago for 160,000 yen [about 1450 USD] might look from the outside like an old piece of junk, there are no problems with the engine or body, and it will still run for some time. A new car might be attractive to have, but paying 300,000 yen [2800 USD] to buy and own a car for five years, or paying 2,000,000 yen [18,000 USD] to buy and own a car for 10 years… even [including] only installation fees, I am greatly swayed [by this].


More so than a new car, there is a lot of fun in searching on Yahoo! Auction for “the cheapest and longest-lasting secondhand car out of those that I am interested in”. For this reason, I really have no interest in new cars that are on sale nowadays.


However, if a new hybrid intermediate class rear-wheel drive car (for example, Mark X, Skyline, etc.) or a revolutionary car loaded with a diesel engine were to come out … that would be a different story.

Used car lot in Mizusawa
A used car lot next to Route 4 in northern Mizusawa. (photo by IwateBuddy)

Once a car enthusiast, blogger ego-brewer explains that they have lost their interest in cars:


I myself, from as far back as I can remember, have had a fondness for big cars. When I was younger, I would sit in the passenger seat and untiringly list all the different types of cars that passed by. When I got older, I read car magazines, and I was thoroughly knowledgeable not only about information on the cars themselves, but also about the market price of used cars. Naturally, I also came to be particular about my own car.


However, I recently suddenly lost my interest in cars. I haven't even bought a single magazine about cars in three years. There really aren't any cars I want. (I am not just pretending to be young.)


As a result of car makers putting a lot of effort into progress in engineering developments and responding as much as possible to the needs of customers, I have the feeling that all cars are pretty much the same now. Of course, there is no dissatisfaction with performance, but for exactly this reason, the one I currently own is enough, so I have no desire to buy a replacement. Because of a stress on amenities and security features, the weight has gone up, and there are nothing but large, heavy cars. (I personally really like small, lightweight cars.)

Finally, blogger iza-koza takes a whole different angle and argues that the decrease in car sales is a very good thing:


Cars, so widespread in Japan
Why do we need more?
Young people's loss of interest in cars
is actually a very natural thing


We have to stop
stopping [people from] losing interest in cars


The greatest solution strategy to environmental problems, it is thought, is decrease in population.
The truth is that Japan's dwindling birthrate and aging population are natural things.
You should not be bothered by the decrease in the absolute number.
This will be what saves all of us.



    Actually, the decreasing sales in vehecles is a good news, from the perspective of public health: reduced greenhouse gas remission, less polluted air and less allergic elderly and minors, more physical activity and less obesity/overweight problems.

    However, from the perspective of economy, it becomes a undesirable sign! Even, some people are “blamed” for this trend!

    How to settle down this dilemma?

  • […] Chris Salzberg writes of “sluggish car sales apparently causing a major drag.” “Who is to blame?” asks Salzberg ploddingly, seemingly unaware of the effect of sluggish cars on traffic. Pokey is as pokey does. Salzberg continues writing in his misapprehension: Bloggers writing about the reports of shrinking car sales this week, in any case, didn’t seem terribly surprised by the news. […]

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