Suzuki, Mitsubishi: Japanese Surrender?

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
suzuki mitsubishi japanese surrender

The worst recession in half a century will be prolonged as consumers see their jobs go away and their home prices head south, economists Nouriel Roubini and Robert Shiller warn on Bloomberg. The University of Michigan index of consumer sentiment fell by more than forecast to 64.6 from 70.8 in the prior month. And it may be time for some foreign automakers to evacuate crumbling Cartago, their countrymen caution.

Suzuki reported a precipitous 78 percent drop in US unit sales in June. Their first-half decline was 60 percent, the market’s worst. Mitsubishi is down 51 percent this year. Faltering since 2003, Mitsubishi doesn’t have far to fall. Mitsubishi “doesn’t make cars that are hot-sellers in the U.S.,” said CSM Worldwide analyst Masatoshi Nishimoto with polite Nipponese understatement. Sayonara?

Both carmakers “should withdraw from the U.S.,” said Yuuki Sakurai, chief executive of Tokyo-based Fukoku Capital Management, who was quoted by Bloomberg. “It’s time for them to decide whether they pay a high price to continue business there or stop the bleeding.”

“Both are struggling with getting customers to initially even consider them,” said Alexander Edwards, head of auto research for San Diego-based Strategic Vision Inc.

Compared with Toyota and Honda, Suzuki and Mitsubishi are market midgets. Suzuki is profitable everywhere else, except in America. Mitsubishi booked half of its worldwide loss in the land of the free.

Miraculously, Mitsubishi makes defiant noises.

“We will never give up the U.S. market,” Mitsubishi Motors President Osamu Masuko said in Tokyo. “The U.S. will return to being the world’s biggest market.”

Suzuki is more cautious. They have put their Camry-killer on the back burner. “Because of the current market situation, we’re reviewing the plan as to where and when to sell,” a spokesman said. Suzuki is strong in growth markets like India, where it owns more than 50 percent of the booming market.

Suzuki’s specialty is smaller vehicles, said Yasuaki Iwamoto, an auto analyst at Okasan Securities Co. in Tokyo. “It makes more sense for Suzuki to put its limited resources into small cars,” said Iwamoto. “Forget about America.”

It would be a lucky escape. In America, Honda sells 20 times more cars than the midgets. Toyota? 30 times. The more you’ve got, the more you can lose. Toyota’s and Honda’s record losses are to a large degree Made in America.

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  • Fallout11 Fallout11 on Jul 14, 2009

    We have a '04 Suzuki Forenza in the garage (bought it for my wife new) now with 70k+ miles on it and it's never had any repair work of any kind, doesn't even get washed annually or the oil changed regularly. Wife abuses the hell out of it. I'd buy another in a heartbeat, a shame regarding Suzuki, they make good, reliable, reasonably priced vehicles.

  • Kurtamaxxguy Kurtamaxxguy on Jul 15, 2009

    Wrt Subaru, here in Beaverton OR., its dealerships are not clogged with cars needing service. I routinely see 5 - 10 Outbacks and 1 - 4 Foresters every day. 6 - 9 year old Subarus with no oil smoke or rust holes are common. Granted there are issues with Subarus; the newer interior trims are fragile, but that's also true of Lexus, BMW, Audi and many others. While Subaru is currently below average wrt JD Power initial quality rankings, CU and other long term repair lists give them a decent to excellent reputation. Anyway, it seems Mitsui has one big hit, the EVO, which car mags applaud wrt track performance, but admit is rather spartan and harsh around town. Could Mitsui survive on that one model? Suzuki's SX4 AWD has a lot of Italian design in it. However, its long term reliability's not proven and they have awful resale value. The other models don't seem to offer anything special.

  • 28-Cars-Later I'm actually surprised at this and not sure what to make of it. In recent memory Senator Biden has completely ignored an ecological disaster in Ohio, and then ignored a tragic fire in Hawaii until his handlers were goaded in sending him and his visit turned into it's own disaster, but we skipped nap time for this sh!t show? Seriously? We really are through the looking glass now, "votes" no longer matter (Hillary almost won being the worst presidential candidate since 1984 before he claimed the crown) and outside of Corvette nostalgia Joe doesn't care let alone know what day it happens to be. Could they really be afraid of Trump, who AFAIK has planned no appearance or run his mouth on this issue? Just doesn't make sense, granted this is Clown World so maybe its my fault for trying to find sense in a senseless act.
  • Tassos If you only changed your series to the CORRECT "Possibly Collectible, NOT Daily Driver, NOT Used car of the day", it would sound much more accurate AND TRUTHFUL.Now who would collect THIS heap of trash for whatever misguided reason, nostalgia for a much worse automotive era or whatever, is another question.
  • ToolGuy Price dropped $500 overnight. (Wait 10 more days and you might get it for free?)
  • Slavuta Must be all planned. Increase price of cars, urbanize, 15 minutes cities. Be poor, eat bugs
  • Sid SB Not seen a Core without the performance pack yet. Prefer the more understated look of the Core vs the Circuit, but both are great fun to drive.