Posts Tagged ‘Honda’

Auto sales driven by gas mileage

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

Fit to be drived

Fit to be drived

Last week Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced that Japan would participate in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks, a prospect that worries American car makers since the trade agreement could remove any remaining tariffs from Japanese cars sold in the U.S., thus making them cheaper and even more attractive to American consumers. Apparently, carmakers in the U.S. don’t think the agreement will sufficiently remove what they deem barriers to American car sales in Japan. The fact that these barriers, which include, in the words of Reuters, “discriminatory taxes, onerous and costly certification procedures for foreign cars and [an] unwillingness by Japanese auto dealers to sell foreign cars,” have not prevented certain European automakers from doing well in Japan may, in fact, indicate that the problem is American products rather than Japanese protectionism. For instance, the U.S. claims that Japan’s preferential tax treatment for kei (light) cars — smaller automobiles whose engine displacement is 660cc — is a trade barrier, but since America doesn’t make kei cars it’s difficult to understand what it’s a barrier to. Kei cars account for about 30 percent of the Japanese car market, which means people like them, and the main reason they like them is their superior gas mileage.

It’s also the main reason for the popularity of hybrids. On March 3, the land ministry announced its most recent findings for the best gas mileage among cars sold in Japan. Toyota’s hybrid Aqua came out in first place with 35.4 km per liter (in JC08 mode). In second place was the first hybrid car sold in Japan, Toyota’s Prius with 32.6km/l. In third place was Toyota’s high-end hybrid Lexus at 30.4km/l, and fourth was Honda’s hybrid Insight. The highest non-hybrid on the list was the Mitsubishi Mirage, which gets 27.2km/l.

Aqua is also the best-selling model in Japan right now. In February, 24,526 Aquas were sold nationwide, with Prius in second place with 23,473. After that, it was Nissan’s Note with 16,497 followed by Honda’s Fit. However, overall kei cars still outsell regular cars and hybrids in terms of units, probably because in addition to good gas mileage they cost less to purchase. Suzuki’s Alto and Mazda’s Carol tied for first among kei cars in terms of fuel efficiency with 30.2km/l. American carmakers will probably not be happy to learn that the government has required all cars sold in Japan to meet stricter efficiency standards by 2015 in accordance with the revised Energy Conservation Law. As it stands, however, a fair number of domestic models already meet these standards.

Of course, the gas mileage figures offered by the government and the automakers themselves should be used purely for comparative purposes. One would probably have to drive straight on an expressway on perfectly balanced tires going downhill with the wind at one’s back to achieve 35km/l in an Aqua, but last week we decided to try one out for a day trip to Gunma. We picked up the car in Iwatsuki, Saitama Prefecture, at a branch of Toyota Rental & Leasing. The fee was ¥7,000 for the day, including the use of a car navigation system, plus ¥1,000 for insurance.

We drove about 250 km and ended up spending ¥1,372 for gasoline, which worked out to about 9 liters or a little less than 25km/l. That’s much less than the advertised rate, but better than we expected considering that more than a third of the drive was spent on surface roads rather than expressways. But we didn’t use the air conditioner, either. And when we checked several websites dedicated to jissai nenpi, or fuel efficiency under real driving conditions, the average gas mileage for the Aqua is around 21.5km/l.

For comparison’s sake, in January we rented Nissan’s compact (but not kei) March from Nikoniko rentals for ¥4,000 a day with insurance included but no car navigation system. We drove 140 km, none on expressways, and ended up using 8.37 liters, which means gas mileage was 17.9km/l (advertised: 24; real: 20). The advantage of the hybrid is obvious, and will likely become more so when Honda comes out with a new version of its hybrid Fit in August. The company is already boasting that gas mileage will exceed 36, thus topping Aqua. And it will be cheaper, too.

Driving is believing: Don’t trust manufacturers’ mileage claims

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

Though revenues were initially spurred by the government’s eco point system, hybrid cars are definitely the way to go for carmakers right now. Last month, sales of Honda’s Fit hybrid outpaced those for Toyota’s Prius hybrid, which had been Japan’s best-selling car since March 2009. Though consumers seem to be getting on the environmental bandwagon, the real appeal of hybrids is economical: They use less gasoline. Or, at least, that’s what we’ve been led to believe.

Tell the truth: Prius at Tokyo dealership

Actually, it’s difficult to know what to believe, according to the mobile telephone site E-Nenpi. Nenpi is the Japanese word for gasoline mileage, and people who subscribe to the site have helped the company that runs it, Iidosha, compile mileage statistics for almost every Japanese car model. Iidosha is of the opinion that the mileage figures supplied by car manufacturers in their brochures are unreliable, since they are based on tests that have no relation to real driving conditions. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism has apparently picked up on this skepticism and recently announced it would demand “improved” reporting on mileage testing.

Presently, the standard testing method in Japan is the “10.15 mode,” which utilizes a fixed roller in a government-run facility. Automobiles “drive” on the roller at different speeds and an average mileage figure is calculated from the results. Starting in April, however, the standard testing method will become the “JC08 mode,” which reproduces actual road driving conditions more closely. This method, however, has already been used by most automakers for several years and is usually listed in current brochures alongside the 10.15 mode figure, thus causing unnecessary confusion.

E-Nenpi doesn’t trust either test. The site asks its 500,000 subscribers throughout Japan to do their own mileage calculations based on gasoline bought and kilometers driven. Apparently, about 100,000 subscribers participate through cell phone uploads, and while there are no officials on hand to verify the results of each contributor, 100,000 is a pretty decent sampling and certainly more credible than any figures you’d get from the 10.15 mode tests. According to Toyota, the Prius gets 35.5 km per liter for the 10.15 mode test and 30.4 km per liter for the JC08 mode test. However, E-Nenpi comes up with 19.3 km per liter. That’s 45 percent less than the official 10.15 mode findings, and, apparently, that’s one of the better results. E-nenpi finds even greater discrepancies in the findings for other Japanese models.

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