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Japanese Honda S660 Sells Out, But to the “Wrong Crowd”

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The newly launched Honda S660 convertible

The Honda S660 convertible

The S660, Honda’s adorable little mid-engine sports car, is a sales success in the automaker’s home country of Japan. After going on sale in the island nation this past April, the kei car has already sold out.

After just four months, the first year’s entire production run of 8,600 units has been completely cleaned out. It would seem the lightweight, 66-horsepower roadster should qualify as a smash hit by anyone’s standards—except maybe those of Honda’s marketing department, which was aiming for a different demographic than the one it hit.

Honda S660

Four out of every five customers who bought the $16,000 Honda S660 were above the age of 40, meaning they belong to a subset of society that marketers callously refer to as “old people.” It’s somewhat ironic, considering the car was conceived by 26-year-old design prodigy Ryo Mukumoto, who began the project when he was only 22.

“People of my generation think cars are simply a tool for transportation,” Mukumoto said at the time of the vehicle’s release. “I wanted them to say—hmm, this car is different. We have made a car that will turn heads.”

Mukumoto’s right that his car is turning heads, but only one-in-five of those swiveling necks belong to the people of his generation. That’s not exactly his or even Honda’s fault, though, as the S660’s sales results seem indicative of a larger trend in Japan.

According to Bloomberg, the number of people under the age of 40 with drivers licenses has fallen 46% over the last 13 years in Japan. The problem is lower incomes and a thriving public transportation system, which makes cars (even adorable ones like the S660) less attractive to young people.

Honda S660 interior

“It will be a big challenge for Honda to lure younger buyers,” said IHS Automotive analyst Yoshiaki Kawano. “If you compare the demographic feature and average income with 20 years ago, I would say the motivation for young people to buy such a car could be quite limited.”

The Bloomberg article also quotes a 66-year-old retiree saying that his two thirty-something sons don’t share his enthusiasm for his new S660.

“The elder one has shown some interest, but the younger one just has no interest in cars at all,” said Hitoshi Arai. “He would rather ride his bicycle.”

That’s lame, Hitoshi Arai’s youngest son. That’s real lame.