Young people in Japan no longer consider cars a “must have” and would rather buy cell phones, computers, clothes and music players. A recent survey done by the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association found that among college students in Japan, cars only ranked 17th in a list of 25 most popular products or services.
Amiux Toyota Co. has gone out of its way to lure young women back to its showroom on Tokyo’s Odaiba Island. They’ve put a special model of the Prius hybrid in their showroom just for that purpose.
Toyota came up with the “DecoPrius” (think DecoDen mobile phone) which is bright, candy-apple red with rhinestones and heart-shaped pink stickers. Response was terrific; more than 300 young women showed up to take a look at the decked out DecoPrius.
Spokesperson for Amiux Toyota Co., Tomio Tsukagoshi said, “If we don’t challenge ourselves and do something that may seem weird, there’s no point. We need to be attracting these types of people.”
In a similar attempt to attract young Japanese women, Honda Motor Co. partnered with Cozy Tomato, illustrator of books and magazines, to sponsor car-centered story-telling events for children and young mothers. As with Toyota’s DecoPrious initiative, Honda’s effort is not altogether altruistic. In the Aoyama district in Tokyo, children hear the story of how hydrogen powers the FCX Clarity fuel-cell vehicle.
Vehicle sales in Japan have been declining for the last decade. At their highest point, in 1990, sales totaled 7.78 million. This fiscal year the expected figure is around 4.3 million. One reason for the recent drop in sales is the recent decline in the national birthrate. Today, more than one in five Japanese citizens is older than 65.
Honda’s Executive Vice President Koichi Kondo said, “Japan is becoming more and more of a mature market, and public transportation is also well developed.” It is reported that men account for about 90% of Prius sales, and roughly 70% of buyers are in their fifties.
Hiroshi Kobayashi, head of sales in Japan for Honda, says that the number of models offered by Honda needs to be reduced.
There are currently ten models offered by Honda exclusively in Japan, and some of them will be cut over the next five years in an attempt to lower production costs for the company.
Japanese automakers don’t expect the numbers to return to what they were twenty years ago, but they don’t intend to give up on the younger market. However, they do hope that through the newer, cooler models and innovative sales strategies they will be able to rekindle the desire for car ownership among young people.