The Return Of Japan Bashing: Ornery Lobbyist Group Steps Up Anti-Japanese Rhetoric

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

The American Automotive Policy Council does not want Japan to be part of a free trade pact with America and other countries. The lobbying arm of Chrysler, Ford and GM published a study that claims that “including Japan in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement combined with allowing Japan to continue to manipulate its currency could put 90,000 American auto jobs at risk.”

Matt Blunt, president of the American Automotive Policy Council, told Reuters:

“We firmly believe a free trade agreement with Japan will lock in one-sided trade benefits that Japan enjoys today at the expense of U.S. auto jobs. It will deliver a blow to America’s auto industry and auto workers at really at critical juncture in our recovery.”

Bill Duncan, head of the Washington office of the Japanese Automobile Manufacturers Association’s is shaking his head: “Something is clearly either wrong or incomplete here. Japanese makers produce 70 percent of their U.S. sales in North America, the bulk of which are in U.S. plants with U.S. workers.”

Insulting the American public while assuming that it is stupid enough to believe it, the American Automotive Policy Council is still selling the old canard of a closed Japanese car market which the poor American automakers are just dying to penetrate if the heinous Japanese government would only let them.

The AAPC banks on the illiteracy of Americans when it comes to foreign currencies. The AAPC has the gall to claim that Japan uses “currency manipulation to gain an unfair competitive advantage” while the Japanese yen is at unsustainable levels that drive Japanese auto manufacturers out of their own country.

The AAPC keeps repeating that the Japanese car market is closed, but it can’t come up with proof. Japan has a zero percent duty on automobiles. America charges 2.5 percent on cars and a massive 25 percent duty on light trucks. The AAPC cites the “non-tariff barriers” that supposedly surround Japan, but it is unable to name them. In despair, the AAPC points at the low numbers of American exports to Japan, which indeed are a disgrace.

January through July 2012, foreign manufacturers imported 135,634 vehicles to Japan, up 24 percent from the same period of 2011. Volkswagen, Mercedes, BMW, Audi all registered double digit increases. Volkswagen imported 33,414 units in the period while Blunt’s paymaster Ford only managed to sell 2,185 and was outsold by niche-players such as Porsche and Alfa Romeo. Chevrolet did even worse with just 844 units sold. In typical “it is not our fault” fashion, Detroit blames its inability or unwillingness to sell cars in Japan on “non-tariff barriers that maintain a closed auto market.”

If you truly want to sell to Japan, you need to have what Japan wants. All of the Detroit Three had ample time to learn this. They all had the inside track when it came to Japan. Chrysler had an alliance with Mitsubishi. GM at one time had control of Isuzu. Ford had been Mazda’s largest shareholder for many years and controlled the company. They all pulled out for various reasons.

While Detroit and their Washington mouthpiece are blowing smoke, Japan is rolling its eyes. The most formidable barrier keeping Japanese imports out of the U.S. is the obscenely high yen. When Blunt alleges currency manipulation, he leaves only two options: Either he is stupid, or he thinks everybody else is. The 2.5 percent import duty on cars are peanuts in comparison. Nobody is thinking of importing pickups to the U.S., the big Japanese players all have their truck production in the country already. If you ask Japanese auto executives about the aim of the shrill anti-TPP rhetoric and the desperate lies of the AAPC, they shrug their shoulders.

One executive told me: “I think they simply want to be ornery.”

Auto Imports To Japan January-July 2012Cumulative Total January-July2012Share%2011YoYVW33,41419.0%27,34422.2%Nissan29,00116.5%32,303-10.2%Mercedes-Benz22,31412.7%17,52727.3%BMW21,90112.5%17,35026.2%Audi13,7167.8%11,78616.4%Toyota10,3065.9%7,62735.1%BMW MINI9,4285.4%7,68122.7%Volvo7,5054.3%5,71631.3%Peugeot3,4362.0%3,466-0.9%Fiat3,1991.8%3,1740.8%Alfa Romeo2,8741.6%1,223135.0%Jeep2,7741.6%1,70862.4%Porsche2,3911.4%1,95422.4%Citroen2,2231.3%1,66033.9%Ford2,1851.2%1,84318.6%Renault1,9041.1%1,68712.9%Land Rover9010.5%60548.9%Chevrolet8440.5%57147.8%Cadillac7550.4%832-9.3%smart7180.4%6943.5%Dodge6840.4%52031.5%Jaguar6130.3%5923.5%Suzuki4260.2%2,380-82.1%Chrysler3810.2%3625.2%Ferrari2750.2%23616.5%Maserati1710.1%14121.3%Honda1610.1%638-74.8%Lotus1550.1%1540.6%Hummer1450.1%176-17.6%Lamborghini950.1%5572.7%Bentley930.1%5472.2%Aston Martin830.0%7510.7%Lancia750.0%5147.1%Hyundai650.0%5030.0%GMC620.0%66-6.1%BMW Alpina600.0%82-26.8%Rolls Royce480.0%56-14.3%Rover370.0%2454.2%Saab160.0%38-57.9%Mclaren90.0%Unimog80.0%4100.0%Mitsubishi70.0%94-92.6%Pontiac70.0%8-12.5%Maybach60.0%7-14.3%MG60.0%6Morgan60.0%9-33.3%Bugatti20.0%Ssangyong20.0%Zagato20.0%Artega10.0%Autobianchi10.0%2-50.0%Detomaso10.0%2-50.0%Kia10.0%2-50.0%PROTON10.0%RUF10.0%Saturn10.0%1Buick5-100.0%GMDAT1-100.0%Mini1-100.0%Opel1-100.0%Others390.0%375.4%Total175,535100.0%152,68115.0%Source: Japan Automobile Importers Association
Bertel Schmitt
Bertel Schmitt

Bertel Schmitt comes back to journalism after taking a 35 year break in advertising and marketing. He ran and owned advertising agencies in Duesseldorf, Germany, and New York City. Volkswagen A.G. was Bertel's most important corporate account. Schmitt's advertising and marketing career touched many corners of the industry with a special focus on automotive products and services. Since 2004, he lives in Japan and China with his wife <a href=""> Tomoko </a>. Bertel Schmitt is a founding board member of the <a href=""> Offshore Super Series </a>, an American offshore powerboat racing organization. He is co-owner of the racing team Typhoon.

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  • Alluster Alluster on Aug 23, 2012

    The complaint is that Japan is devaluing the yen. For someone who has supposedly done a lot of research, you would know that Japan has spent $350 Billion in 2011 alone trying to devalue the yen, while many here get their panties in a wad over the $50B bailout to Detroit. Just cause the yen is at historic highs, it does not mean the Japanese govt is not actively devaluing their currency. The same way i cant claim I am not trying to kill someone I am stabbing at, just cause the victim is still alive. You would also know that there is a huge resistance at the 75 yen to dollar level. All currency traders/investors know from experience Japan will intervene when the dollar reaches 75 yen level. I would do research on why foreign brands have less than 5% market share in the worlds third largest economy. Show me one country in the G20 with a similar take rate of foreign brands. I would also try to find out why the imported from Japan Yaris/Fit costs the same as a locally made Sonic in the US, while the imported Sonic costs 50% more than a locally made Yaris/Fit in Japan. Chevy is definitely not being greedy nor is the Sonic equipped any better than the Fit/Yaris. But you know what, fact finding takes time and energy. Its easier to be a their mouthpiece and regurgitate their garbage. I have nothing against the Japanese. My company has an office in Tokyo with 400 employees and I regularly interact with a dozen of them. Such amazing people they are. I am not going to let a few sleazy companies like Toyota and Honda and some scumbags in the Govt doing their bidding define the country.

    • MeaCulpa MeaCulpa on Aug 23, 2012

      So, Japan is trying to depreciate the yen, that is surely odd and nothing every nation in the world tries from time to time when their currency is perceived as too dear. But if currency manipulation is the metric that shall be applied, I do wonder if Detroit shouldn't be considered the recipient of a couple of trillions in subsidies. "Chevy is definitely not being greedy nor is the Sonic equipped any better than the Fit/Yaris." Oh, chevy not greedy? Please do tell what a Corvette costs in Europe, excluding sales taxes and the 10 customs duty.

  • Challenger2012 Challenger2012 on Aug 24, 2012

    Here is something MC to think about. How is it that in Communist China, where one political party decides who will build and where, there are all many different (foreign) car makers building in China, yet not a single foreign car maker builds in Japan’s free market?

  • Charles The UAW makes me the opposite of patriotic
  • El scotto Wranglers are like good work boots, you can't make them any better. Rugged four wheel drive vehicles which ironically make great urban vehicles. Wagoneers were like handbags desired by affluent women. They've gone out of vogue. I can a Belgian company selling Jeep and Ram Trucks to a Chinese company.
  • El scotto So now would be a good time to buy an EV as a commuter car?
  • ToolGuy $1 billion / 333.3 million = $3 per U.S. person ¶ And what do I get for my 3 bucks -- cleaner air and lower fuel prices? I might be ok with this 🙂🙂
  • VoGhost Matt, I'm curious why you write that inventory levels are low at 74 days. Typically, 60 days is the benchmark for normal inventory.