The Nikkei Shinbun reports today that new car sales for 2007 were at a 25 year low. The International Herald Tribune reports that it is at a 35 year low. The discrepancy is because the IHT includes only vehicles over 660cc (Kei-jidosha). In other words, not only are car sales at a 25-year low, the only type of vehicle that is actually selling is the functional mini-van, and according to the Japan Times, even sales of mini cars are shrinking. This is a clear message that cars are definitely not cool these days in Japan.
The Nikkei report goes on to state a number of other interesting statistics and anecdotes. One very telling statistic is that 32.1% of all males under 29 yrs in Japan now do not own a car. This is a significant increase on the 24.1% figure for the period 1993-2005. In other words, the percentage of young men in Japan who choose to NOT own a car has risen from a quarter to a third and young men - these former stalwarts of the car buying and car-loving demographic are deserting automobiles in droves. All that automobile advertising on television (and everywhere else you turn) is washing over them like so much expensive water off a ducks back.
The report, by Nikkei editor Hitomi Ishinabe, also mentions that automobile related magazines are not moving off shelves like they used to. In fact, it seems these magazines are actually having trouble finding editors and writers for what used to be regarded by former generations of young men as one of the coolest jobs on the planet. The magazines find they have to employ older men to write articles targeted at other old men just to keep selling.
I haven't heard such good news in a long time. Now if this isn't a sign to the younger generation I don't know what is - let's start making your voices heard in public transport policy!! Enough road building and road widening! Wider footpaths! More bicycle parking! A Velib system for our cities! More car free streets!