Only three segments showed a gain last year: so-called "pure" imports, medium- and heavy-duty trucks, and 660cc minivehicles.
Total 2005 import sales in Japan fell 2.1 percent, to 268,521. So-called reimports, or Japanese vehicles built abroad then sold in Japan, led the drop. "Pure" import sales rose 2.2 percent in 2005, to 245,610. Several import brands had record years, including Audi and Citroen.
Medium- and heavy-duty truck sales continued to benefit from government rules mandating lower-emission models. Isuzu Motors Ltd. President Yoshinori Ida says the so-called "NOx effect" will end in the second half of 2006.
Sales of 660cc minivehicles rose 1.8 percent to a record 1,923,307. Two factors drove the rise.
First, Daihatsu Motor Co. tried to challenge longtime segment leader Suzuki Motor Corp. for the No. 1 position. Daihatsu's effort fell short, but the sales war increased both companies' sales. Daihatsu's minivehicle sales rose 4.9 percent to 588,580. Suzuki's rose 4.2 percent to 618,434. Toyota Motor Corp. owns 51 percent of Daihatsu.
Second, Nissan's sales remained strong, climbing 27.1 percent to 106,450 in the fourth year after it entered the segment.
Caught in the crossfire, Honda Motor Co., Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and Subaru-maker Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. saw minivehicle sales fall.
Minivehicles accounted for 32.8 percent of Japan in 2005, up from 23.9 percent in 1997. Squeezed by deflation and a soft economy, consumers have turned to the cars. Minivehicles are subject to substantially lower taxes.