Everybody is talking about how much the Euro is losing against the dollar. At closer look, it is not alarming. Even during normal times I have seen lower Euro rates than the current $1.27. But wait until you look at the Euro from a Japanese perspective. (Like the one I have at the moment, sitting in a pittoresk cabin half way up Mount Fuji that could use better heat.) The anemic euro might discourage people like me from coming to Japan. What it really does is discourage Japanese automakers from exporting to Europe. A lot has been said about the strength of the Yen against the dollar. It’s nothing compared to the Euro. Against the Euro, the yen turned into Godzilla. This has Japanese automakers extremely worried. They don’t really know what to do about it.
The Nikkei [sub] made a table of manufacturers’ assumed exchange rates, i.e. the exchange rate that is in the budget, and of the drop in operating profit for each yen below that rate. The table is in yen. The dollar fetches around 77 yen ( it has fetched less) at the moment. If there is 1,000 in the right column, then think there are $13 million.
On Monday, the Euro momentarily dropped to 97 yen in Tokyo, its lowest level in about 11 years. Let’s run the numbers for Toyota. Assume the Euro stays there, that would cost Toyota $779 million in operating profit – in Europe alone. Ouch!
The pain is even greater for small Mazda. Says The Nikkei:
“Among automakers, Mazda Motor Corp. is most seriously affected by the euro’s deprecation because it has no plants in Europe. It exported some 200,000 Mazda 3s and Mazda 2s to Europe, including Russia, in 2010. But because exports are unprofitable at the euro’s current exchange rate, Mazda will try to make due for now with cost cuts.”
Mazda is aiming for a 25 percent cut in procurement and production costs, but that may not be enough. Even for automakers with local production in Europe, the euro is falling faster than they can adjust production.
The low Euro of course is a boon for European automakers, especially for the export-heavy Germans. I would love to see a table that discloses how much more money they make for every cent the Euro sinks, but I have never seen such a table.
If you look closely, and with an open mind, you see something else that is highly alarming: The dollar/euro rate is masking the fact that both are dropping rapidly. Euro and dollar fall, the euro just falls a little faster than the greenback It is like two people who just fell out of another airplane. One watching the other guy, the drop might look benign. Viewed from the bottom (and this is where Japan should be,) it looks like a ….. get out of the way!!!!