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The growth of Hybrid cars in Japan

Updated on April 7, 2015

Honda Fit Hybrid S-Package

Here in Japan, over 1 in 5 cars are Hybrids. They can be from 50% - 100% of the cost of the petrol versions so what makes hybrids cars so popular in Japan?


Many Japanese like to keep up with the Jones’ or should I say the “Yamaguchi’s or the Suzuki’s”. New popular technology will be followed, and if it is successful many are likely to jump on the bandwagon. Car sales staff may even try to talk you out of buying a petrol car nowadays, since Hybrids cars are around 80% of their models. The Honda Fit, which has been one of the most popular selling cars in Japan recently, is still popular as the Hybrid version. 80% sales of the Honda fit are hybrids.

Tax Refund

People say that this is the main reason people by Hybrids cars. Every year around May in Japan, you have to pay your road taxes. This ranges from $300 to $700 depending on the type of car or size of engine.

If you own a hybrid car for 5 years, the government will return all paid tax for 5 years. That could be up $3,500 in a tax refund for people with larger cars. Due to this reason there are very few Hybrid cars on the second hand or used market. Japanese cars have a big depreciation value. Even if a car is in perfect condition, once it has been bought and used even for a week it can slash the value by up to 25%. This proves to be very advantageous to foreigners who like to buy and export overseas.

Eco Friendly

With the combustion engine not active 100% of the time, not only are you saving fuel costs but it is more friendly to the environment. No more polluting the environment while idling. In Japan there are many notices reminding people not to idle while waiting in cars. Most people do especially in the summer as a 35-38 degrees outside temperature will boil you inside the car without A/C.

A lot of young people like to sit in their cars outside the convenience stores eating and listening to loud music.

Not all Japanese like Hybrid cars

In Japan, the No.1 car manufacturer in the world you can imagine that there are many car enthusiasts or “Hashiriya” as you call it in Japanese .These car enthusiasts love noise and the sound of power booming from a traditional petrol engine and often a modified exhaust pipe. You don’t get this from hybrid cars.

Those type of people want to hear the roar and rumble and tend to like the older models, such as older GT-Rs, Mitsubishi EVO, Subaru Impreza etc. The love to hear the sound of an engine roar to life once you turn the ignition.

How do they drive

I always had the impression that electric cars would lack power and torque. I was certainly wrong. After driving a Honda fit Sport SR model 1.5L CVT regular engine, I was shocked at the acceleration the same Hybrid model gave out.

As with a CVT you always need to give the gas a little more than a regular gear box to get decent acceleration. However the Hybrid version just wheel spun and rocketed away making me have to adjust the way I control the gas.

However this all changed once I reached around 40 mph. At this point with a CVT SR V-TEC Engine, the throttles open and the car begins accelerating at an even faster rate. Excellent for merging into traffic at higher speeds such as the highway.

The Hybrid version didn’t have that same apparent acceleration sprout at that speed but I understand that it has the same top speed. I guess it’s just getting used to a different kind of motor.

It would be nice to test drive various other hybrids and their petrol equivalents to get a feel of the difference. In any case, hybrid cars are definitely the way forward in Japan in terms of the motor industry.


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