In an (especially for Japanese tastes) strongly worded joint statement, Toshiyuki Shiga. Chairman of Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association, and Koichiro Nishihara, President of the Confederation of Japan Automobile Workers’ Unions threw down the gauntlet to the Japanese government. Executive summary: “We are sick as hell of the high yen and we can’t take it anymore. Do something, or kiss those jobs sayonara.”
Current foreign exchange rate levels represent, for the yen, an appreciation that not only far surpasses all prior projections by Japanese automakers, but also totally fails to reflect Japan’s economic fundamentals.
Over the decades, the Japanese automobile industry has carried out a steady series of cost-cutting and other measures necessary to maintain its international competitiveness. The yen’s present exchange rate level, however, clearly exceeds the limits of such efforts. The continuation of this trend seriously threatens the ability to maintain the foundations supporting the manufacturing craftsmanship that has long been the basis of Japan’s competitive edge. There are also fears that these currency market conditions will have a profoundly adverse impact on employment throughout Japan’s motor industry, including the parts supply and other vital sectors.
Having been heavily affected by the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami, automobile production in Japan is at last moving towards recovery. The yen’s excessive appreciation risks gravely hampering this nascent recovery and, in doing so, imperiling the resurgence of Japan’s weakened economy.
In view of these realities, JAMA and the CJAWU strongly demand that the Japanese government take swift and effective action aimed at reducing the yen’s current strength.
In other countries, talk like this would be shrugged-off as posturing. A joint statement by employers and unions would raise eyebrows anywhere. In highly polite Japan, such a statement is the last step before a suicide note. Shiga is also the COO of Nissan, a company far less exposed to the high yen than Toyota or Honda. One dollar buys 80 yen today.