358. JAPAN: BECOMING A POST CAR SOCIETY
This is a great trend, and a model for the future. People losing interest in cars... Why do we need oil again?
Favorite quote from the article: "Having a car is so 20th century."
Suda reflects a worrisome trend in Japan; the automobile is losing its
emotional appeal, particularly among the young, who prefer to spend
their money on the latest electronic gadgets. While minicars and
luxury foreign brands are still popular, everything in between is
slipping. Last year sales fell 6.7 percent—7.6 percent if you don't
count the minicar market. There have been larger one-year drops in
other nations: sales in Germany fell 9 percent in 2007 thanks to a tax
hike. But analysts say Japan is unique in that sales have been eroding
steadily over time. Since 1990, yearly new-car sales have fallen from
7.8 million to 5.4 million units in 2007.
Alarmed by this state of decay, the Japan Automobile Manufacturers
Association launched a comprehensive study of the market in 2006. It
found a widening wealth gap, demographic changes—fewer households with
children, a growing urban population—and general lack of interest in
cars led Japanese to hold their vehicles longer, replace their cars
with smaller ones or give up car ownership altogether. "Japan's
automobile society stands at a crossroads," says Ryuichi Kitamura, a
transport expert and professor at Kyoto University. He says he does
not expect the trend to be reversed, as studies show that the younger
Japanese consumers are, the less interested they are in having a car.
JAMA predicts a further sales decline of 1.2 percent in 2008. Some
analysts believe that if the trend continues for much longer, further
consolidation in the automotive sector (already under competitive
pressure) is likely.
Japanese demographics have something to do with the problem. The
country's urban population has grown by nearly 20 percent since 1990,
and most city dwellers use mass transit (the country's system is one
of the best developed in the world) on a daily basis, making it less
essential to own a car. Experts say Europe, where the car market is
also quite mature, may be in for a similar shift. Source