By on November 19, 2012

Japan, everyone’s favorite closed market, is about to get a couple new products from Chrysler, which will return to the market after a nearly four year absence.

Just-Auto reports that the first Pentastar products introduced will be the 300 and the Lancia-based Ypsilon, badged as a Chrysler. The Ypsilon will come with Fiat’s TwinAir 0.9L two-cylinder engine, while the 300’s large size and large displacement engines likely won’t help it endear itself to Japanese consumers.

Foreign cars, save for tier-one luxury brands, traditionally struggle in Japan for one reason; conformity. The Japanese place a high value on this trait, and buying a foreign car is often equated with some sort of iconoclastic statement. But there are exceptions to the rule – a European luxury car or sports car is appropriate, and anything British tends to get a pass (witness the success of Mini and Lotus in Japan). Volkswagen has also been enjoying some success with its Up! minicar.

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16 Comments on “Chrysler To Enter America’s Favorite Closed Market...”

  • avatar

    And two years from now we can read,

    “Chrysler Pulls Unsuccessful Products from Closed Japanese Market.”

  • avatar

    So THAT’S what the PT Cruiser re-design was going to look like!

  • avatar

    The japanese love Lancia. That’s one stupid move that can only be explained by either vanity or the urge to find another place to dump cars they simply can’t sell in the UK.

    Or maybe they just figure there won’t be enough volume to justify changing the badges on those RHD cars.

  • avatar

    The grill on that car looks ridiculous.

  • avatar

    While the Japanese do seem to value conformity… perhaps this has as much to do with what’s on offer as their tendencies?

    From what I’ve seen of Japan’s streets, this looks like it might be rather unique and, like the PT Cruiser, might develop a following.

    But does it get good gas mileage? Perform well? Is it efficiently packaged? In those dimensions, it’s up against some stiff competition.

    Then there are other issues and the resemblance to the PT brings one to mind… serviceability. I popped the hood of a PT, once, and dropped all thought of buying one. It looked as though there was absolutely not space in the engin bay large enough to accomodate my hand alone, let alone two hands, a tool and a part. How will it stack up on things like that?

  • avatar

    Uh, the Japanese widely believe that American cars are not particularly well-made or reliable. Unfortunately, they have a lot of good reasons to support that conclusion (notwithstanding tremendous gains of the last ten years). There are pockets of interest in certain luxury cars (gangsters) or classic American muscle, but not mainstream support. And, really, why should there be with a dozen local companies producing great cars? I honestly cannot imagine that America’s third brand will be able to crack this nut. This strategy looks like it is based upon wishful thinking or a complete failure to understand the local market. Or both.

    Source: I live in Japan and have for many years.

    • 0 avatar

      Mr. Togo How would Japanese buyers know if American cars are good or bad, since they are not sold there? I don’t know how well built Ford cars in Russia, since I don’t live there or have access to those cars. Also, it was not American cars that were being recalled by the millions, but Toyota’s cars and to a lesser extent Honda’s.

      • 0 avatar

        American cars have been sold in Japan for years, usually no one wanted them due to their size, lack of RHD availability, or quality issues.

        I’ve driven a new Avenger and a new Corolla and I can safely say that while the Avenger had nicer interior materials, it also had far more panel gaps and even a gas lid that didn’t fit.

      • 0 avatar

        Remedial reading 101: He didn’t say American cars were bad, he said “Japanese widely BELIEVE that American cars are not particularly well-made or reliable.”

      • 0 avatar

        To give a non-snarky answer, I would say because Japan is a modern first-world country and has a robust car culture. People read, many car nuts know plenty about other markets, just the way many TTAC readers would have some knowledge of the JDM, et cetera. There have been forays over the years by Euro and American brands, but they haven’t done well save for certain luxury brands. And there is a certain cachet to some foreign and American goods, e.g. Rolex, BMW, McDonald’s, etc. so it’s not a xenophobe thing (I think).

        I honestly just think there are so many great cars in Japan (every brand you know but with deeper model line ups) that it’s really hard for other brands to break in. The BMWs of the world do it the way they do it elsewhere – the higher price of entry and higher maintenance costs are themselves selling points with the social signalling to your neighbours.

        The problem with Chrysler is that it doesn’t have a reputation for quality or reliability anywhere really. And so most Japanese who are not car nuts simply wouldn’t take a chance on a brand they don’t know much about, which seems worse in most regards to domestic competitors and which doesn’t have much cachet. Car nuts will know full well Chyrsler’s ups and downs and won’t probably go for them.

        Caveat to all of the above is that some people will dig the American muscle aspect of some models, e.g. the 300 Hemi, but that’s not enough to base a country strategy on. Finally, a re-badged Lancia is precisely the worst kind of thing to try to crack this market with – Japan is the absolute king of the amazing small car already. Check out a Suzuki Wagon R and ask yourself who would buy the Lancia pictured?

        Anyway, hope I’m wrong. The more the merrier.

      • 0 avatar

        And, sorry, but people need to get over the whole Toyota recall thing. Every manufacturer has recalls, scandals and problems. All American brands have had large recalls in their history. Most objective sources rank Japanese brands highly in terms of reliability. I don’t hear people still going on about the Ford Pinto or Bridgestone tires. Scandals happen, companies deserve all the shame, lawsuits and market impact when they are legitimate, and then things go on. The beauty of the markets is that most of this behaviour is nipped in the bud and the power of the purchaser forces change, e.g. Honda re- re-doing the Civic in a hurry, Mitsubishi offering crazy long warranties and, yes, Ford becoming a leader in stability control on its trucks and SUVs.

      • 0 avatar

        Sensible points Togoshiman.

  • avatar

    What a lame fail this will be.
    An egregious inversion of “hit ’em where they ain’t”.

    And as for Japanese “conformity”, how many Americans would even consider a foreign car back when we were riding high? There was only a tiny niche market in urban/university areas from 1945 till the late 70’s.

  • avatar

    The reason why Suzuki and Mitsubishi are un succesful in States mostly apply to why Detroits are unsuccessful in Japan.
    Line up are not what market wants, Dealer network is weak, Depreciation is awful, Client base are unfavorable to mass (American cars are only popular to bad boys wanna be in Japan).

    Though I would be buying Lancia Thema if anything came to used car market at attractive price, as Italian car lover.
    But Chrysler, that doesn’t sound sexy at all.

    Wrong move.

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