Ide: Apathy, Not Policy, Is Behind GM's Japanese Blues

Cameron Aubernon
by Cameron Aubernon

Though General Motors is finding big success in China among its brands, the automaker is still a bit player in Japan, and not because of so-called nontariff hurdles.

Automotive News reports Yanase & Co. CEO Takeyoshi Ide proclaims internal apathy, not external policy, as the reasoning behind GM’s current status in Japan. As one example, Ide — whose Cadillac and Chevrolet dealerships number at 13, down from a peak 114 — says if the automaker would consider building more RHD vehicles suited for the Japanese market, especially Cadillacs, sales of 5,000 units annually would be “not so difficult.”

He has hope that a few moves affecting Cadillac, such as the hiring of former Infiniti chief Johan de Nysschen, would make the change “GM’s original people” from Detroit haven’t been able to undergo to bring success to the automaker’s premium brand. It’s also the reason why Ide hasn’t let go of his remaining GM dealerships despite also being the nation’s No. 1 Mercedes dealer, as well as one of its top sellers of Audi and BMW vehicles.

As for external issues affecting GM, Ide says policy is not among them — Japan imposes no tariffs on imported vehicles — and is just an excuse for the United States government to maintain its tariffs, including the infamous Chicken Tax.

That said, hope may be fading as it is. The sales forecast for 2014 remains flat at 1,200 units for GM’s efforts in Japan, higher than its nadir of 700 for all of 2009, yet lower than its zenith of 47,000 units in 1996. Additionally, while Mercedes moved 31,291 vehicles onto the streets of Tokyo through July 2014, Cadillac saw its sales fall 27 percent to 425 units compared to the same period in 2013.

Cameron Aubernon
Cameron Aubernon

Seattle-based writer, blogger, and photographer for many a publication. Born in Louisville. Raised in Kansas. Where I lay my head is home.

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13 of 75 comments
  • Eyeflyistheeye Eyeflyistheeye on Sep 02, 2014

    If Cadillac would just introduce a small pickup truck, they'd be able to purchase Tesla and have enough left over to pay off the US deficit.

  • Ccode81 Ccode81 on Sep 02, 2014

    The used car dealer I bot my Jag has a lot of knowledge on American cars as well. one story from their blog. If anyone goes to this snob dealership on this article to quote for Chevy Astro post 99's AWD transfer motor, which breaks frequently, your price is JPY 119,700. my guy can import an after market altanative parts from US for less than JPY 30,000 including shipping fee. Don't know how this happens, but good luck to GM and Yanase.

  • Motormouth Motormouth on Sep 03, 2014

    Er, Cadillac in Japan. Big cars, tiny roads. So to sum up, that's BIG cars... on very small roads. Next up, why square pegs don't fit in round holes.

    • See 6 previous
    • Corey Lewis Corey Lewis on Sep 09, 2014

      You can't really use that excuse. Japan made/makes their own "big" cars, which are the same size or larger than any current Cadillac. Cedric Gloria Aristo President Century Crown Comfort (AKA every single taxi) Countless others.

  • Ccode81 Ccode81 on Sep 03, 2014

    Few points. Sorry I cannot find reference but from article I read many years before, Japan was largest exporting market outside north america for Cadillac for many decades. That was before China's emergence. Only showing how much GM had no interest of exporting it for long time. ATS is priced 4.69 million yen tax inclusive for 2 liter turbo model, so cheaper than your local price. Their problem now is distribution network and image I think. They tend to be sold at Yanase where merc and Audi sits together in showroom, hardly been picked after direct comparison of interior finish level. Also, it has been typically driven by gangstars in the past, and somehow hugely popular as hearse...