Frontline Dispatches: Japan Wins, America Loses

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

Surprisingly good news out of Japan: Seemingly unimpeded by the Toyota-bashing, production of cars, trucks and buses in Japan increased 30.7 percent on year in January. Output is up for the third consecutive month, the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association said today via The Nikkei [sub]. Vehicle output rose to 753,773 vehicles in January from 576,539 vehicles in the same month a year earlier.

Even better fared Japan’s exports of cars, trucks and buses: Exports shot up 45.6 percent from a year earlier in January, the first rise in 16 months, says The Nikkei [sub] in a separate report. “Shipments to key markets such as Asia, Europe and” – gasp – “North America increased in line with recovering auto demand.” To this embedded observer, it seems as if the jobs created by this brouhaha are in Japan.

Let’s see what the next month brings, especially in the U.S. Awfully little, predicts Reuters.

According to the wire service, J.D. Power sees an anemic SAAR of 9.9m units for February, up a tad from February last year when the sky was falling, but a steep loss compared to the 10.8m units in January. “While February sales have improved from a year ago, the pace of the recovery has hit a speed bump,” said Jeff Schuster, of J.D.Power.

Who’s to blame? Toyota of course. And the weather. Speculates Schuster: “This hiccup appears to be the result of consumers waiting out the Toyota recalls and winter storms impacting showroom traffic.” Both factors seem to bring down sales of all brands. While March usually brings the end of blizzard and the blooming of crocuses, the ghost-in-the-machine frenzy seems to be here to stay for a while.

Memo to Washington: Consumer confidence is an essential ingredient of sales. Fear, uncertainty and doubt just makes them stay home and sit out the … storm.

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  • Tassos ask me if I care.
  • ToolGuy • Nice vehicle, reasonable price, good writeup. I like your ALL CAPS. 🙂"my mid-trim EX tester is saddled with dummy buttons for a function that’s not there"• If you press the Dummy button, does a narcissist show up spouting grandiose comments? Lol.
  • MaintenanceCosts These are everywhere around here. I'm not sure the extra power over a CR-V hybrid is worth the fragile interior materials and the Kia dealership experience.
  • MaintenanceCosts It's such a shame about the unusable ergonomics. I kind of like the looks of this Camaro and by all accounts it's the best-driving of the current generation of ponycars. A manual 2SS would be a really fun toy if only I could see out of it enough to drive safely.
  • ToolGuy Gut feel: It won't sell all that well as a new vehicle, but will be wildly popular in the used market 12.5 years from now.(See FJ Cruiser)