TOKYO -- A slowdown in the North American market for Japanese vehicles is surfacing, with sales at major carmakers growing at less than a third last year's pace.
North American sales of six Japanese automakers, including heavyweight Toyota Motor, will likely rise 2.5% to 8,200,000 vehicles in fiscal 2016, compared with a 7.8% increase in fiscal 2015. Sales are expected to grow at the weakest pace in five years.
Replacement demand appears to have run its course, and large vehicles, a forte of U.S. automakers, are increasingly popular as a result of cheaper oil prices. If the slowdown continues, the impact on Japan's carmakers could be substantial, given that the North American market brings the biggest sales.
Toyota expects North American sales to fall 0.6% to 2,820,000 vehicles in fiscal 2016, the first decline in five years. Year-on-year sales drops are also expected at Nissan Motor, Honda Motor, Mazda Motor and Mitsubishi Motors. The exception is Subaru maker Fuji Heavy Industries, which is seeing healthy sales of its SUVs.
The North American market for new cars rebounded after the 2008 Lehman shock, as sales grew for six consecutive years starting in 2010. Total sales hit a record-high 17,470,000 units in 2015, according to a U.S. research company. However, Nissan Motor Co-CEO Hiroto Saikawa said that "the U.S. market has reached its peak."