• Nov 13, 2006


Due in part to the booming market for the kei or mini car, Suzuki has overtaken Honda for third place behind Toyota and Nissan in the race for Japanese domestic car and light commercial vehicle sales. For the period between January and October 2006, Suzuki outsold Honda by a margin of nearly 7000 units.

It seems that even as the Japanese economy recovers, the Japanese consumer sentiment has shifted. They feel cars are now a commodity and are more reluctant to pay the higher costs associated with larger cars. Kei cars are also cheaper to produce, helping to keep the average cost in the market around one million yen ($9000 US). The kei segment, with engines limited to 660 cc, have only three manufacturers (Suzuki, Daihatsu and Mitsubishi) and account for 35% of the 6 million vehicles sold in Japan each year.

[Source: Shiotsu]



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  • 13 Comments
      • 8 Years Ago
      The Japanese consumer is much less fanatical when it comes to cars than the average American. The Japanese see the Honda for what it is - A bland car with long term reliability not quite as good as your typical Mercury or Buick. It should be no real surprise that they were passed over by a far more daring Suzuki.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Honda is the Ford of Japan. Bomb in your own country an kick ass overseas.
      • 8 Years Ago
      So Honda is neglecting their homeland production status? Not a smart move. Makes me wonder what other poor decisions are coming down the pike.


      The pictured Suzuki Wagonr looks cool... for a B-box car.
      • 8 Years Ago
      In case anyone cares, Daihatsu is part-owned by Toyota, which is why Toyota does not compete against it's own partner company in this limited market(admittedly very large for Japan).

      Virtually NO kei cars are exported. This may change if fuel prices spike for a long time. Personally, I'd love a Daihatsu hybrid 3 seater for 200 plus MPG (I saw photos of their prototype awhile back - the roof swings upward at the base of the windshield for egress and there is one central front seat, two rear seats, if I recall correctly).

      If necessary, Toyota could have Daihatsu assist in development of a Toyota branded kei car.

      I think Suzuki sells some kei cars to Nissan badged as Nissan so they have "something" to sell in this market, as well.
      • 8 Years Ago
      IIRC, wasn't the JDM 1st gen '80s Honda City sold with a 50cc Honda mini-trail bike tucked under the liftback gate used to be a ...kei car?!
      • 8 Years Ago
      Well, Kei cars are not exported out of Japan, but most of the Suzkuki cars manufactured in countries like India belong to the mini car or kei car class.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Those 'higher costs' for buying larger cars are higher than some of us might imagine. Kei cars get a yellow instead of white license plate which means some savings at initial purchase, but the big factor is Japan's testing and registration costs for used cars - most people are essentially forced to buy new every time, and have to settle for less because of that.
      • 8 Years Ago
      GM really knows how to buy high and sell low. They pay Fiat for the right to back out of an acquisition, and Fiat's now doing great. They sell their stake in Suzuki, and now Suzuki's doing great. Whoever GM divests from next, I'd advise buying that stock.

      In at least the Fiat case I think GM was deceived into thinking the company was in much worse shape than it actually was. Any journalist out there interested in writing a real story? Go find the truth.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Perhaps Honda needs to get back into the kei car market. Considering they eschew 35% of the entire market, 7000 units fewer than Suzuki is "nothing".

      Honda once did kei cars. How about a 250 mpg hybrid diesel kei car with 4 seats, Honda? Use an opposed twin (like an old 2CV) for utter simplicity.

      Less vibration than you think... plus a vastly simplified common rail fuel injection system - both cylinders would fire at the SAME TIME and thus only one injection timing (and two fuel injectors) would be required.
      far jr
      • 8 Years Ago
      Not bad Suzuki. Now get rid of the re-badged Daewoo cars in the US and you could surpass some here too.
      • 8 Years Ago
      It will be interesting to see how some of Yahoo's popular web properties change through the monetization process."
      • 8 Years Ago
      Gongrats to Suzuki, although I was disappointed after sitting in an SX4 at the dealership after I was so impressed in sitting in one at the NY Auto show this year. The quality of the show car didn't seem to carryover from the production. If they keep improving their products and definetely beef up their performance side like their current marketing is imploring, than they will do well in the U.S. too. This is one comeback I'm glad to see as memories of the last Swift GT/GTi sold in the U.S are still fond.
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