free html hit counter Peak Oil Debunked: 358. JAPAN: BECOMING A POST CAR SOCIETY

Monday, June 02, 2008


This is a great trend, and a model for the future. People losing interest in cars... Why do we need oil again?

Favorite quote from the article: "Having a car is so 20th century."
Suda reflects a worrisome trend in Japan; the automobile is losing its
emotional appeal, particularly among the young, who prefer to spend
their money on the latest electronic gadgets. While minicars and
luxury foreign brands are still popular, everything in between is
slipping. Last year sales fell 6.7 percent—7.6 percent if you don't
count the minicar market. There have been larger one-year drops in
other nations: sales in Germany fell 9 percent in 2007 thanks to a tax
hike. But analysts say Japan is unique in that sales have been eroding
steadily over time. Since 1990, yearly new-car sales have fallen from
7.8 million to 5.4 million units in 2007.

Alarmed by this state of decay, the Japan Automobile Manufacturers
Association launched a comprehensive study of the market in 2006. It
found a widening wealth gap, demographic changes—fewer households with
children, a growing urban population—and general lack of interest in
cars led Japanese to hold their vehicles longer, replace their cars
with smaller ones or give up car ownership altogether. "Japan's
automobile society stands at a crossroads," says Ryuichi Kitamura, a
transport expert and professor at Kyoto University. He says he does
not expect the trend to be reversed, as studies show that the younger
Japanese consumers are, the less interested they are in having a car.
JAMA predicts a further sales decline of 1.2 percent in 2008. Some
analysts believe that if the trend continues for much longer, further
consolidation in the automotive sector (already under competitive
pressure) is likely.

Japanese demographics have something to do with the problem. The
country's urban population has grown by nearly 20 percent since 1990,
and most city dwellers use mass transit (the country's system is one
of the best developed in the world) on a daily basis, making it less
essential to own a car. Experts say Europe, where the car market is
also quite mature, may be in for a similar shift. Source
by JD


At Monday, June 2, 2008 at 7:54:00 AM PDT, Blogger Tvrdy said...

That would be great news if it really happened in Europe too. But I am doubtful. I suppose Japanese car makers are compensating domestic sales downfall with international sales. Here in Croatia Toyota and Mazda are among the most popular brands and I see new models on the road every day. Other Japanese brands are also in demand.
All the best to Japan, I guess we'll have to wait for post car society while we are saving your manufacturers. :-((

At Monday, June 2, 2008 at 11:09:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Justin said...

When I see more evidence that cars are no longer in vogue for the newly middle class in China and India (along with the US), then I'll feel better.

At Monday, June 2, 2008 at 3:06:00 PM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lots of very dense urban living with great mass transit. Makes perfect sense.

Sadly, so much of the rest of the developed world has crap public transport options. We'll all be fighting over new buses and rolling stock soon. Shoulda started 20 years ago.

At Monday, June 2, 2008 at 3:21:00 PM PDT, Blogger JD said...

As usual, please use the Name/URL option (you don't have to register, just enter a screen-name) or sign your anonymous post at the bottom. The conversation is better without multiple anons.
Thank you! JD

At Monday, June 2, 2008 at 5:51:00 PM PDT, Anonymous stuck in shizuoka said...

It would certainly seem to gybe with what others have said about Japan recently

The kei car phenomenom here in Japan is no longer a trend but has become a necessity for many. Instead of two-car households being the norm, more are switching to the kei as the primary car with bicycles and scooters to do the errands and even the daily commutes.

Europe is apparantly beginning to embrace the 'mini-car' as well

Canada's big cities (another increasingly urbanized country, though nothing like Japan obviously) are seeing other trends that show the car culture is waning

A two-minute video worth the watch on this;

Yes, something of a feel-good story, but if the MSM is picking up on these types of stories, then, yes, we are seeing some mitigation that will spur a movemen, hopefully along the lines of a critical mass. Changes can happen exponentially and this is at least a hopeful sign. I recently went to my neighbourhood bike shop here in Japan and the owner was bemoaning the fact that bicycles sales are skyrocketing so much here that smaller stores are finding it hard to keep stock. His sales are twice what they were last year but he can't expand because there just aren't enough bikes available in stock. It makes sense in a country where there are 8 million bicycles used just to ride to the local station.

At Monday, June 2, 2008 at 6:08:00 PM PDT, Blogger JD said...

Nice links Shizuoka,
Here's the link to the video

At Monday, June 2, 2008 at 6:19:00 PM PDT, Anonymous stuck in shizuoka said...

cheers JD


At Monday, June 2, 2008 at 7:46:00 PM PDT, Anonymous GreenNeck said...

Japan has a stable population, is relatively small, and has excellent public transit, so this is not all surprising, when coupled with the fact the economy has been more or less stagnant for the best of 17 years.

The world is adding 75,000,000 people every year - 2 Japans every 3 years. Every time a family in Japan gives up the car, or an American commuter opts for car-ppoling, 10 new cars are sold in China. Demand has only one way to go: up. Way up.

Just here in Canada, every year300,000 immigrants come from mostly 3rd world countries to instantly adopt a first World living standard. The first thing they do is buy a car.

The amazing thing is that even at $130 a barrel, every last barrel of the 87-million produced every day finds a buyer. The demand is there and so far shows no signs of abating.

At Monday, June 2, 2008 at 8:37:00 PM PDT, Anonymous stuck in Shizuoka said...


I disagree on a number of point and agree on a couple but with caveats;

1. Immigrants in Canada are largely moving to the biggest urban centres. Mass transit is decent and getting better, most notably in Vancouver. Are you sure that "the first thing THEY do is get a car"?

2. Yes, China is putting new cars on the road. Chinese academia and government is also aware of peak oil and making progress in electric vehicles. Toyota and Mitsubishi (and you can be sure the others will follow) are set to release fully electric KEI for domestic and overseas markets. Also, electric scooters are becoming fashionable in China.

On that same note, China is subsidizing its at-pump prices but, will likely follow suit with other developing countries--notably India--and raise prices. So, yes to your comment in the short term, but disagree for the medium and long-term.

3. Demand destruction: Japan's oil consumption was cut 3% last year, BEFORE phevs and the coming increase in hybrids. Another 3-4% this year perhaps? US driving is down more than in 30 years--the single biggest drop since the early 70's. Don't you think this will continue? It might be sporadic and half-hazzard at best (and ugly at worst) but demand will go down in America? Let alone Europe (where so many people have, like Japan, options?).

I don't think the future of consumption is as clear as you make it out to be.

At Monday, June 2, 2008 at 11:41:00 PM PDT, Anonymous stuck in shizuoka said...

Some more thoughts on Japan's place in the rapidly changing world and energy usage, re; fuel cells to heat homes and electrification of the automotive industry. A reasonably balanced view that is not all rosy....

At Tuesday, June 3, 2008 at 4:05:00 AM PDT, Blogger craftycorner said...

The latest high prices of oil and food has created a seed release from the dandelions of change. Those changes, as JD is stating here, are beginning to flower in Japan and here, in the US.

Japan's young are loosing interest in cash gobbling cars, and Americans are carpooling.

There's evidence and interest in localizing food supply as in gardening and yard farming in America.

The question is will the seeds of change mature into fruition? If prices stay high, yes. It will cost too much to do other wise, and people are notorious for not sitting and starving.

At Wednesday, June 4, 2008 at 5:23:00 AM PDT, Anonymous GreenGhost5 said...

Do you hear that? I hear a change in the winds. GM is shutting doe four of it's Truck/SUV plants and putting the workers from those plants onto small cars. Not only that but (isn't confirmed yet) GM is looking to kill the Hummer! This is a step in the right direction. Truck sale are so bad here in Texas, that dealerships won't take anymore trade-ins on trucks.
I know that it has taken awhile to wake us up to the problems we face, but I'm surprised at how quickly the winds are changing here in America!

At Wednesday, June 4, 2008 at 11:39:00 PM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you heard of algae?
I believe it CAN replace oil as fuel for cars in 5-7 years.

At Thursday, June 5, 2008 at 2:44:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Luis Dias said...

Hummer is invincible. It is infallible. It is all-powerful Chuck Norris style. It CAN'T die, you ignorant!

At Thursday, June 5, 2008 at 7:02:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Dennis said...

Thanks for this blog!

I've had a yahoo message board up since early '04, just after I got taken in by the who peak oil thing. Just click on my name to get there.

At Thursday, June 5, 2008 at 5:41:00 PM PDT, Blogger Chief said...

Isn't the Japanese population decreasing rather rapidly? I wonder how the relative declining amount of young people correllates with the decrease in automobiles.

At Thursday, June 5, 2008 at 6:06:00 PM PDT, Blogger craftycorner said...

The oil concerns will fight alternatives like algae for all they are worth and unfortunately, they have a number of planetary leaders in their pockets.

At Friday, June 6, 2008 at 3:08:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think in economical environment, big oil concerns WILL have to switch sooner or later to alternative energies like algae otherwise they can call themselves as bankrupts. That's pure economic. If it doesn't return profit, do something else.
Make some research and you'll find out that last years more and more companies are investing in renewals, starting at almost zero in mid 90's (sorry don't have URL for that graph).

I was really concerned with peak oil issue for last time. Have read much about it before i came here. Have read also a good post about it, and share the same opinion:

At Friday, June 6, 2008 at 8:19:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

JD., Your blogs about Japan always bring back a little nostalgia. Over 50 years ago I spent a short time in Japan and Korea (mostly Korea). Japan had a heck of a train system way back then. But so did the US. When I got rotated back I took a train home from San Francisco to Hartford, Ct. That ain't like a trip from Tokyo to Fukuoa. I relaxed and enjoyed myself. When I figured The railway robbery diner car food prices in on the meals I probably would have broke even on the plane. To anyone who complains about inadiquate rail transportation. It's our own damn fault. We are just cheap oil spoiled. J.C., Sr.

At Tuesday, June 24, 2008 at 3:59:00 AM PDT, Anonymous Michael Dawson said...

For somebody with such a smug attitude, you seem rather unaware of some pretty basic things. Not least of these is the importance of cars in capitalism. How do you imagine the world economy could remain capitalist with the dominance of cars as everyday transportation, particularly in the epicenter, the USA?

P.S. If you agree that Peak Oil is coming someday, you are not "debunking" it.

At Wednesday, November 12, 2008 at 6:33:00 PM PST, Anonymous mazda auto parts said...

You know why new cars are not needed anymore? Because the whole world is in a crisis and with everything being so expensive now a days for consumers, its tough to go ahead and even think about a new car. People are even getting rid of their new cars and exchanging them to some chimsy v4 honda civic which personally I think is the best way to go. Save gas, insurance, and have a smaller car to enhance parking availability! :)



Post a Comment

<< Home