Unexpected Quake Side Effects: BMW Tops Lexus in Japan

In March of this year, Japan was hit by one of the most severe natural disasters it has ever seen and this has had a deep impact on the country’s automotive industry. This has affected production of models like the Prius and of other cars, plus it had an impact on the supply of some paint pigments vital for manufacturers across the global industry.

The record earthquake in Japan also had an unexpected side effect for BMW dealer Jun Kubota, as his showroom in central Tokyo had its best April in at least three years. He wasn’t alone either, as BMW deliveries surged 56 percent in April, while sales of Toyota Motor Corp. (7203)’s Lexus brand fell 45 percent, according to Bloomberg news.

“Customers have told me some Lexus models won’t arrive until November,” said Kubota, sales manager at the BMW dealership in Tokyo’s Aoyama district. “So we’re hearing some people say, ‘You know, I’ve always wanted to try a BMW’.”

A shortage of cars built in Japan will increase the market share of imports, which made up 180,255 units, or just 4 percent, of local passenger-car sales last year, said Nicholas Speeks, president of Mercedes-Benz Japan Co.

Imported foreign brands are offering sales campaigns, while domestic automakers are advertising less due to lack of inventories,'' this year, said Takeshi Miyao, an analyst at consulting company Carnorama in Tokyo.

Luxury brands including BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz have traditionally dominated Japan’s import car sales, making up about half the market, so it’s a significant indicator of the market’s share that Lexus was topped by BMW.

Audi isn’t doing so bad either, as a company dealership in central Tokyo stated that a Lexus GS owner looking to buy a new car switched to an Audi A5 coupe this month because of the long wait. The introduction of eight new and facelifted models since September accounts for more of Audi’s recent sales gains.
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About the author: Mihnea Radu
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Mihnea's favorite cars have already been built, the so-called modern classics from the '80s and '90s. He also loves local car culture from all over the world, so don't be surprised to see him getting excited about weird Japanese imports, low-rider VWs out of Germany, replicas from Russia or LS swaps down in Florida.
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