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Europe’s new compact cars target Japan

Publication Date : 31-03-2014


Amid rising global demand for fuel-efficient compact cars, European automakers have been releasing compact models with engine displacement at 2 litres or smaller in Japan to cut into the market shares of domestic rivals.

The Japanese unit of leading German automaker BMW AG announced Tuesday plans to release a new Mini model in April, a revised version of the popular car for the first time in seven years.

Featuring the latest safety features such as an automatic braking system, the new model retains the classic Mini touch including its iconic round headlights.

Domestic sales of the company’s compact BMW Mini totaled about 17,000 units in 2013, marking the fourth consecutive year-on-year increase in sales.

Francois Roca, general manager of BMW Group Japan, said at a press conference Tuesday that the company hopes to encourage consumers to shift to the new Mini models and away from Japanese cars.

In other automobile news, Audi AG of Germany released its A3 Sedan model in January, the company’s first compact sedan model. German automaker Mercedes-Benz released two compact car models last year.

Leading car manufacturers around the world are now placing priority on product development on compact cars and sport-utility vehicles targeted at emerging markets.

For example, Mercedes-Benz had only two compact car models, A-Class and B-Class, among its vehicle lineup of about 20 models. In 2013, the company released a new coupe model, CLA-Class, and plans to increase the number of compact car models to five in 2015.

Compact cars have long been popular nationwide because of their high fuel efficiency. They are also easy to drive, even on narrow roads. Foreign automakers are also trying to attract Japanese consumers with their latest safety devices. For instance, the German automaker Volkswagen AG’s Golf model sports an automatic braking system despite being a compact car.

The percentage of foreign automaker sales among new car sales in Japan, excluding minicars, was a record-high 8.6 per cent in 2013. Whether this trend continues remains to be seen, especially after the consumption tax hike goes into effect next month.


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