Volkswagen lost its position as the top foreign vehicle seller in the nation in 2015 for the first time in 16 years, as the German automaker became embroiled in a global scandal over cheating on emissions tests, an industry body said Friday.
Placing second behind German competitor Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen saw its sales tumble 18.8 percent from the year before to 54,766 units, according to data released by the Japan Automobile Importers Association. It was Volkswagen’s first sales decline in six years.
Mercedes-Benz sold 65,162 units, up 7.1 percent, to secure a market share of 19.83 percent against Volkswagen’s 16.67 percent share.
BMW came third with 46,229 units, up 1.3 percent for a share of 14.07 percent. That was followed by Audi, which suffered a 6.4 percent drop to 29,414 units as the emissions scandal affected vehicles of the Volkswagen group unit as well.
The public image of Volkswagen was tarnished after its diesel vehicles were found in mid-September to be equipped with so-called defeat device software that turns on their pollution controls only during emission tests.
While no problems were found with Volkswagen vehicles imported to Japan through formal channels, sales in December plunged 39.2 percent to 4,532 units.
Sales in Japan of new imported vehicles, including those made abroad by Japanese carmakers, dropped 2.2 percent in 2015 from a year earlier to 328,622 units.
Sales of foreign-brand vehicles in Japan overall slipped 1.6 percent to 285,496 units, while those of Japanese-brand vehicles dropped 5.8 percent to 43,126 units, according to the imported vehicle data.