Robert Sawatzky
Jun 11, 2019

Top Japanese auto brands hold lead over luxury, Asian rivals

Toyota still outpaces German luxury car brands, while Honda and Yamaha are top in motorcycles. But Indian and Chinese auto brands are edging up.

A new Toyota parked in the Philippines, one of 5 APAC markets where Toyota remains tops.
A new Toyota parked in the Philippines, one of 5 APAC markets where Toyota remains tops.


Still the top-selling car brand in the world, it's not surprising that Toyota hung on to the top spot in the automotive category in the Asia's Top 1000 Brands survey in 2019. The Japanese automaker remains number one in five of 14 APAC markets (Japan, Australia, Thailand, Philippines and New Zealand). But that's one fewer than last year after ceding Malaysia to its Japanese rival Honda this year.

In fact, look a bit more closely and you'll notice some worrying trends for Toyota, namely its brand position in massive markets like China, where it slipped to 10th place from 8th last year, and in India where it dropped to 8th from 5th in 2018. While India has some strong local brands in its home market like Maruti (3) and Tata (6), Chinese automotive brands still don't yet crack the top 10 in its home market. 

Nonetheless, in the APAC-wide results, we're seeing Chinese and Indian brands continue to march higher in 2019. Maruti (17) is up two spots while Tata (20) nudged one higher to crack the top 20. From China, Geely (23) is up three places to overtake BYD (24) which also climbed one notch. 

Overall though, there was only a minor change in the automotive top 10, with only Porsche (7) swapping spots with Audi (8) in a brand race that tends to pit Japanese mainstream brands like Toyota (1) and Honda (4) against German luxury automakers like Mercedes-Benz (2) and BMW (3) and Italian sportscars like Ferrari (5). Perhaps the most interesting mover was Mitsubishi, revving up 3 spots to 12th overall, thanks to a top 10 showing in ANZ and several Southeast Asian markets.


Honda and Yamaha are still top two-wheeler brands, but Harley-Davidson is looking to smaller electric bikes to spark sales in Asia

On two wheels, the Japanese brands are undisputed leaders, with four of the top 5 names. Honda has an even stronger grip on the brand market, winning 8 of 14 APAC markets and landing a top 3 finish in every one of those — something no other brand can boast of. Japanese rival Yamaha remains competitive in second place overall, led to by its top-brand ranking in China and Malaysia. Suzuki remains in 4th this year, while Kawasaki is up two spots to 5th overall, swapping places with Ducati, which slipped to 7th.

The third-place brand of motorcycles in Asia-Pacific is an interesting one. Harley-Davidson, the top motorcycle brand in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore, has always had stronger brand value (top 10 category brand in all APAC markets except Vietnam) than actual sales in the rest of Asia.  But that could well change as Harley looks to rev up sales in Asia by broadening its line of smaller bikes to win over markets like Thailand and India. 

That latter market has its own deeply-entrenched local brands like Hero (2) and Bajaj (4), which pushed Harley back a notch to 5th place there. Hero, meanwhile, formerly known as Hero Honda, saw its brand ranking fall out of the top 10 overall in Asia-Pacific slipping from 10th to 12th overall, changing spots with rising Taiwanese brand SYM, which moved into 10th place. 

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