THE Japanese have long enjoyed a reputation for designing and making quality vehicles and, of the top makes, Toyota has been the market leader in Hong Kong for almost a decade. The overall market for motor vehicles in the territory is 60,000 a year. Toyota accounts for 30 per cent of the total market and 24 per cent of all passenger cars sold. It is the best-selling marque of all segments: cars, including taxis; heavy commercial vehicles; and public light buses. Last year, Crown Motors, Toyota's Hong Kong distributor, was awarded the Triple Crown by Toyota Motor Corporation for its outstanding sales results. John Haines, the managing director of Crown Motors, said the cars retained an ''extremely high'' resale value, an important factor in a customer's choice of any car. ''Buyers want to be sure that they can recover a large percentage of their investment in two or three years' time,'' Mr Haines said. ''Hong Kong has an active used-car market in Toyota products.'' Careful research went into each model before it reached the marketplace, and ''design clinics'' gleaned feedback from potential customers. Japanese manufacturers, concentrating on improving safety standards, have introduced to their cars airbags, head restraints, strengthened panelling and more effective safety belts. Mr Haines said Crown Motors' good after-sales support was a ''major consideration'' for buyers. ''Ninety-nine per cent of parts required for models up to 10 years old are available straight away,'' he said. Toyota was successful in Hong Kong because its vehicles were reliable and durable and could cope with hills, had air-conditioning and were comfortable, he said. The Toyota Corolla is the best selling passenger car in Hong Kong. Its sales totalled 5,000 a year - twice as many as its nearest competitor, the Honda Civic. It was also voted Family Car of the Year by Hong Kong's Automobile magazine last year. The Corolla is worldwide the best-selling car. Another Toyota, the Camry, was voted Executive Car of 1992 by the same magazine. Despite Toyota's success over the years, it only broke into Hong Kong's luxury car market in 1991 with the Lexus. The Lexus snapped up25 per cent of the luxury car market, overtaking rivals BMW and Alfa Romeo, which together hold 15 per cent. Mercedes-Benz maintains 60 per cent. Until the Lexus, Toyota had concentrated on sales volume, manufacturing quality, and middle-of-the-range vehicles. Mr Haines said: ''The strength of the Lexus lies in its luxurious design, reliability and smooth operation. It is as good a motor vehicle as has ever been built.'' Last year, Lexus was voted Luxury Car of the Year by Automobile magazine. But not content with its successes, Toyota continues to develop and refine the next generation of vehicles for Hong Kong's car lovers.