For long, Detroit automakers explained their miserable sales numbers in Japan with somersaulting logic: “Our sales numbers are so miserable in Japan, because the Japanese market is closed to imports. Proof: Our miserable sales numbers.”
German carmakers in the meantime, notably Volkswagen, do not complain at all. They control 80 percent of Japan’s growing import market. Volkswagen’s small Up! turned into an especially hot seller, and Volkswagen’s executives in Japan emphatically deny that the market is closed.
Now, the Detroit Three are back in Japan with a revolutionary strategy: Offer cars the market wants.
In Japan’s case, that’s smaller cars. “Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC are gearing up to release smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles here to better compete against German automakers,” writes The Nikkei [sub]. If they fail, they can always go back to claiming that the market is closed.
- At Ford, where big SUVs like the Explorer and Escape account for 80 percent of all of the 3,648 units the company imported to Japan this year, the big brutes will be joined by the Focus five-door hatchback next summer. Who knows, with a little success, maybe Ford will spend the money on a Japanese website with a menu and headlines in Japanese …
- GM hopes the Cadillac ATS, to be brought to the country in March, will sway Japanese customers. Cadillac needs a little help with only 1,122 sold so far in Japan. Even the Yakuza are beginning to think that Escalades are too ostentatious, a contact in Kabukicho tells me.
- Chrysler will launch the 0.9-liter Ypsilon compact this Saturday, its first new model in the Japanese market in four years. Now wonder the brand sold only 592 cars in Japan this year.
Together, the Detroit Three sold a total of around 12,000 vehicles here in the first 11 months of 2012, something they clearly want to improve on in the coming year. German brands sold more than 160,000 cars so far this year in the allegedly closed Japanese market.