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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:

国内の軽自動車を除く新車販売台数が4年連続で減少したそうです。その原因としては人口の減少(高齢化)、ガソリンの高騰、若者の車離れなどが影響しているようです。

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.

確かに高齢化社会になると実際に車を運転する人も減るでしょうし、また今の若者たちには自動車という物はそんなに魅力的な物ではないのかも知れませんね。フリーターや派遣社員などでは車を買ったり、それを維持したりするなんて金銭的に難しいでしょうし・・・。

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….

地方に住んでいる皆さんにとっては車は必需品で生活の足となっていますが、都内に住んでいる私にとっては正直なところ、「無いと絶対困る!」という程の物ではありません。我が家の場合は小さな子供がいますので、確かにあると便利ですけど・・・。

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…

我が家の場合を例にすると、交通に関しては最寄駅まで歩いて10分程度で行けますし、バス停でしたら3分程度のところにあります。日常生活について考えてみましても、駅前には大型スーパーもありますし、我が家から歩いて30秒程度のところにも小型のスーパーがあります。コンビニも歩いて3分のところに2軒ありますし、病院も歩いて行ける範囲に結構有ります。

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.

私が車を運転するのは休みの日だけで、家族で買い物へ行ったり、旅行やレジャーで利用する程度です。妻も免許は持っていますが、我が家の駐車場へ駐車する場合には特殊技能?が必要なので運転しておりません。年間の走行距離は4~5千キロ程度ですから、維持費などを考えますと車が必要なときにタクシーやレンタカーを利用した方が安いのではないかと思います。そんなことを考えますと都内で車を持つということは、ある意味「贅沢」なのです。

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:

新車の販売台数が少なくなってきたというのは、都市部など車の所有が全く要らないという理由だけではなく、10年ほど前から自動車性能が良くなり中古車でも十分に走ってしまうためでもあるかと思います。

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.

 3年前に、16万円で入手した12年落ちのクレスタなんて、外見はポンコツで古く見えますが、エンジンやボディは問題なくまだまだ走ります。新車も確かに魅力的でありますが、30万円程度で入手し5年所有するのと、200万円で入手し10年所有するのとでは…導入費だけでも大きく左右されます。

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].

 俺は新車よりも「こだわった車をいかに安く、長持ちする中古車」をヤフオクで探す楽しみがあるため、今現在、発売されている新車には関心は無いかと思います。

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.

 しかしながら、中級クラスの後輪駆動車(例えばマークX、スカイラインなど)のハイブリッド車かディーゼルエンジン搭載した画期的な車が出るとなれば…話は違います。

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:

僕自身、物心ついた頃から大のくるま好きで、小さい頃は、助手席で飽きもせずすれ違う車の車種を言い続けていました。大きくなってからも車雑誌を読みあさり、車自体の情報はもちろん、中古車の相場まで熟知していたものです。当然、自分の車にもこだわってきました。

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.

ところが、ここのところ、急激に車への興味を失いました。車雑誌さえ三年くらい全く買っていません。なんか、欲しい車がなくなったのです。(若いふりをしている訳ではありません。)

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.)

技術開発が進むところまで進み、消費者のニーズにできるだけ応えようと各メーカーが努力した結果、同じような車ばっかりになっちゃった気がします。もちろん、性能的に不満とかはないのですが、だからこそ、今の車で十分で、買い替える意欲もわきません。快適装備や、安全性能を重視するが故に、重量も増え、大きく重い車ばかりです。(僕は、小さくて軽い車が大好きです。)

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:

日本にこれだけ普及した自動車
これ以上増やしてどうしますか?
若者の車離れ
実は至極自然なこと

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

我々は車離れ阻止を
阻止しなくてはなりません

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

環境問題の最大の解決策は人口の減少であると思われます
日本の少子高齢化も実はごく自然なこと
絶対数が減少することに困惑してはなりません
それは我々を救うことになるでしょう

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.

2 comments

  • TRUST

    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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