Section 1. Development of Diverse Vehicle Lineup and Expansion of Domestic Sales

Item 1. Maturation and Diversification of Market

Diversification of motoring needs

Although the spread of vehicles in Japan began some 30 to 40 years after that of Western countries, it took place at an even greater tempo. For passenger cars, 1966 was regarded as the start of the "the family car" era, and mass public adoption of cars continued at a high pace as the Japanese economy underwent rapid growth and automotive prices stabilized. By 1980, the household car ownership rate had reached 57 percent, putting households that owned an automobile in the majority.

As the Japanese car market began to mature from the early 1980s as car ownership became engrained in Japanese society, automotive needs diversified. This was driven by several factors, including a shift in the value placed on cars, particularly among younger users, and a change in the usage environment as road conditions improved. An increase in the number of female drivers also played a part - in 1981 the number of women with driver's licenses reached 10.89 million, passing the 10 million mark for the first time. By the end of the year, one in four women of eligible age held drivers licenses.

As the Japanese market matured and diversified in this way, automakers' production also met a turning point. Examples include the increase of female drivers, the spread of automatic transmission vehicles, and the rise of front-wheel-drive vehicles designed to conserve energy.

The ratio of automatic transmission vehicles registered in Japan in 1980 was 27 percent, while front-wheel-drive vehicles comprised 21 percent-each more than twice the level five years prior.

Meanwhile, as prosperity increased, people began to use their cars as a form of self-expression, and performance cars featuring cutting-edge technology such as double-overhead-cam (twin-cam) engines and turbochargers gained in popularity.

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