The automotive market in Japan has very few similarities to the automotive market here in the States. Japanese buyers tend to select compact, fuel efficient vehicles whereas here in the states we still like gas guzzling, large vehicles. The difference between the buying habits of both nations is easy to see when you look at the best sellers for 2009.
The best selling new model in Japan for 2009 was none other than the Toyota Prius. The Prius is one of the most efficient vehicles available. Toyota sold a shocking 208,876 Priuses in Japan, which is a 300 percent improvement over their 2008 numbers. Notable vehicles that garnered some of the other top five spots in Japan was the Honda Fit in second place and the Honda Insight in 5th.
By comparison, the Toyota Prius only climbed its way up to 16th here in the U.S. Though sales of the Prius were strong here this year, the vehicle was not capable of knocking some of its less efficient competitors out of the top spots. Some of the top sellers here include the GMC Sierra, Toyota Tacoma, Ford Escape, and Chevrolet Impala, Dodge Ram, Chevrolet Silverado, and the Ford F-Series just to name a few.
Both the Japanese government and our government here offer strong incentives to buyers of vehicles such as the Prius, but Japan has high taxes on gasoline thus driving up the cost of gasoline. This only contributes significantly to sales of efficient vehicles.
Source: Nikkei Newspaper Japan (login required)