Electric passenger cars have long accounted for less than one percent of new car sales in Japan. But with the sweeping global EV trend, things are beginning to change as more automakers start to put EV models on the market.
TOKYO, Feb. 3 (Xinhua) -- Despite boasting an early start with electric vehicles (EVs), Japan has been seen as a laggard in the EV market over the past decade when the rest of the world is actively riding on the transformative shift.
Since Japanese automaker Nissan unveiled the world's first mass-produced all-electric model LEAF in 2010, the traditional auto powerhouse, for all its established advantages in gasoline cars, has been reluctant to embrace EVs, opting instead to focus on gasoline-electric hybrids. Electric passenger cars have long accounted for less than one percent of new car sales in Japan.
But with the sweeping global EV trend, things are beginning to change as more automakers start to put EV models on the market.
Toyota launched its first mass-produced EV model bZ4X in May last year, and the Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance rolled out electric minivehicle models Sakura and the eK X EV in the summer, which reported strong sales and won the 2022-2023 Japan Car of the Year award.
More EV models are expected to hit the market over the coming years.
Believing the year 2022 is a turning point in Japan's EV market, Nissan Executive Vice President Asako Hoshino said the company's Sakura model will be a gamechanger for the Japanese market and make EVs much more accessible to Japanese customers.
The government has also been on the move. Japan has aimed for all vehicles sold to be at least part-electric by 2035, along with increasing subsidies for EV purchases and reduced restrictions on the installation of charging facilities.
Due to concerted efforts, the number of EVs (including mini vehicles) sold in Japan amounted to 58,813 units in 2022, 2.7 times the number of the previous year and marking the highest since 2009 when data became available, Nikkei reported, citing data from automobile associations.
EVs accounted for 1.71 percent of all passenger cars sold in Japan last year, up from 0.59 percent the previous year and exceeding 1 percent for the first time, according to the report.
However, in contrast with bolder steps taken elsewhere such as the European Union and China, Japanese automakers, well positioned in the traditional auto sector with strong sales and high profits, remained cautious.
Masashi Hodotsuka, senior analyst with the Japan Research Institute, observed that Japanese automakers have not yet made any strategic adjustments or major changes in the industry. "They make hybrids and they make EVs, and it's still such a situation," the analyst said.
Their tentative attitude and the country's low EV penetration have allowed room for foreign companies to tap into the market.
China's leading EV manufacturer BYD started to sell its electric sports utility vehicle ATTO 3 in Japan this week. It is also planning to introduce two more models later in the year and to have more than 100 dealerships in Japan by the end of 2025.