By on October 16, 2014


While the eternal debate about whether Japan is or isn’t a closed market continues to rage onwards, the Nikkei reports that a new phenomenon is occurring in Japan: imported vehicles from domestic brands are starting to trickle in.

Previously, only a very limited number of imported nameplates trickled into the Japanese market. The Ohio-built Honda Accord Coupe was one of the most famous examples, with right-hand drive units sent back to Japan and marketed specifically as an American-built vehicle.


Even though the yen has weakened – a key factor in the decision to set up overseas manufacturing facilities – Japanese OEMs aren’t so eager to move production back home. As the Nikkei reports

In some cases, the economies of scale from building cars where they sell the most makes those vehicles more competitive than those produced domestically. So the automakers are moving to import these models to beef up their domestic lineups… ‘Each automaker has taken risks to conduct capital investment abroad, so it’s unlikely that the trend to manufacture locally will change as a result of exchange rates returning to earlier levels,’ says Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association Chairman Fumihiko Ike.

While models from lower cost locales like Spain, Hungary and Thailand will be brought to Japan, Honda will be bringing the Ohio-built Acura NSX over, albeit as a low volume halo car. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting twist of events, given that the Plaza Accord and voluntary export restrictions aren’t too distant a memory for many people.

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35 Comments on “Japanese Auto Makers Crack The Closed Market...”

  • avatar

    Honda this year becomes a net exporter of vehicles from the US. Meanwhile FCA is a Dutch company with a UK headquarters and Italian ownership that is an importer of vehicles to the US.

    And yet, so many people persist in calling Honda foreign and Chrysler the home town hero.

    • 0 avatar

      That was random, I haven’t heard the reverse argument (as in a bad thing) for this since the 90’s.

      It just makes sense to call a companies nationality either where it was formed, or where it’s headquartered.

    • 0 avatar

      Sorry i don´t get this NED HQ and UK taxation and so on- they are Italian, always have been, it´s like some US citizens would switch to some carribean islands for tax benefits, but they are still US guys not Bermuda or so..

      So this UK-dutch and whatever is irrelenvat, they can switch tomorrow from NED to Cyprus for example – that´s just paperwork, they are Italian company- but this days countries are not deciding factor, most global companies are public with millions of shareholders, so who cares that company A is listened in Country B when 60% of their shares are owned buy Arab investors for example

      So Fiat is ITA company, that bougght US company, but that US part is main asset of whole company and No.1 market, so Chrysler is maybe not US anymore, but yet they are also not foreign like mentioned Honda- they are Japanese no matter how big they are in the US, so i don ´t see anything wrong with Chrysler being called home town and Honda not…

      • 0 avatar

        James joyce hisself would no doubt be in awe of your streams of unconsciousness. But Apple likes to think of itself as American while manufacturing in China, keeping its profits mainly offshore and attempting to pretend it doesn’t. So what is it?

      • 0 avatar

        FCA’s #1 market is the US, so it’s American, but Honda’s #1 market is US, so it’s Japanese?

  • avatar

    Why the lowered Accord coupe lmao

    God I want one of those so bad. Wagon would be even better.

    • 0 avatar

      Very hot car. And to think that the Americans had absolutely nothing which could touch this (and still don’t) and the Germans (esp. Mercedes) were on the precipitous slide (Bye bye W124’s and 190E’s).

      The styling here influenced the 6th? gen Civic esp. the rear tail lights. I believe this one is a 93-97 Gen. The 98’s were not as good as this as Honda had to make the engine bay bigger to accommodate the J series V6. But what can you do when the local population is corn fed and hasn’t heard of the treadmill.

      Very good car to swap an H22 into. F series is a more complex matter. Haven’t seen a K series swap into it but most likely they are floating around.

      Toyota was good in those days too but somewhat bland compared to this. The steering and handling of this Honda decimated everything in it’s class.

      Double wishbone skeptics can go pound sand. This is and always will be superior.

      Sorry for the negativity.

  • avatar

    And again I see how we need more C-pillar emblems on cars today. The Enclave is making a good restart of it. LR is following suit with the new Discovery Sport.

  • avatar

    Japan is special case- 1st we must divide market to 2 halfs, 1st half – normal – regular vehicles, 2nd half – mini cars – kei cars

    I know beginning of the year was stronger with people buying before new tax was imposed, but so far last few montsh were solid – far better than everyone anticipated, no horror scenario so far happened after tax increase

    So 2014 numbers – total market UP 6.0% JAN-SEP YTD
    REgular vehicles 4.5% UP, KEI CARS 8.3% UP

    Total market4.318m , Regular vehicles 2.578m and kei cars 1.74m cars for JAN-SEP period

    So Kei cars are this year above 40% market share – where foreing automakers are non-existent – that´s huge part of market only for domestic players

    So about 60% of the market is avalaible for all other players- Germans, US and so on – so for JAN-SEP foreign companies have 8.3% share in regular vehicle market – that´s not big number, but they don´t have factories in Japan, so it´s pure exports and 8.3% is not so bad if we look at fact that Japan has most domestic brands-automaekrs from all players, not even US has currently so many US brands – but sitution is very different in the US with many plants from foreign automakers, – look at this you are Japanese – very proud nation with at least 10 domestic automakers with great quality and everything – why would you buy foreign imports? unless it´s premium brand – that´s why germans are so popular and any other are not… I think Japan is kind of closed market, but if we look at numbers and facts it´s not so horrible i believe, Korea was at similar numbers, but last 2 years were strong and now foreign brand have i think 13% share

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    So Bertel was right.

    • 0 avatar

      Imports thus far this year are 7% of the market. Not exactly a high number.

      In any case, he never really could explain why the ACEA and EU are complaining about Japan’s policies and why the ACEA is opposed to an FTA between the EU and Japan, while it favors one between the EU and the US. It would seem that the facts don’t conform to his narrative.

      • 0 avatar

        FTA between Japan and EU benefits clearly Japan, while FTA between US and EU benefits mostly EU – now speaking about cars not other sectors

        For example Korea EU FTA i think was pretty ,,even,, Germans are now doing better than ever in KOR for example, how the exactly measure boost of FTA for Hyundai-Kia, since they are producing in CZE-SVK, but it helped them too, so this FTA i think was pretty ,,even,, comparing to Japan-EU or US-EU

        • 0 avatar

          I understand the reasons: there are no assurances that Japan will reduce its non-tariff barriers, and it may not help sales even if they did.

          I explained that to the former editor-in-chief of this site, who was either lying or else didn’t understand it. In his fantasy world, the Europeans are perfectly happy with the car market in Japan, and it’s only the US that has any complaints.

          • 0 avatar

            Bertel’s mantra that lack of overt restriction was no restriction was a lot like the Puritans of Plymouth Colony. The first newspaper in Boston was shut down after one edition, because it was against the law to criticize the governor, and the editor criticized the governor.

            The Puritans claimed they didn’t prevent him from publishing, they just lowered the boom after one edition, so it wasn’t censorship. Prior censorship was the only censorship they recognized, and overt barriers (tariffs, quotas) were the only barriers Bertel recognized.

          • 0 avatar

            The former editor was more interested in beating his anti-American bongo than he was in analyzing the industry.

            I’m the first to point out that the US brands would stand no chance of making a dent in Japan even if they were handed every advantage. But that does not mean that Japan offers an open market or that the Europeans are thrilled with Japanese trade practices.

        • 0 avatar

          Doesn’t Canada have a FTA with the EU? Can the Big Three use their Canadian production to flood the EU?

          • 0 avatar

            No, the Canada EU free trade deal has not been officially signed yet.

            Flooding the euro-market with Chrysler minivans, Equinoxes and Edges is unlikely to occur due to local tastes but maybe Honda can send downmarket Civics and Toyota can flog some Corollas, after they fit diesel engines.

            Municipalities will no longer be able to specify local goods as preferences or requirements, and the ridiculous interprovincial trade barriers we now have will also be under attack, which is fine by me. The howl of stuck pigs emanating from the old boys clubs will be a sound for sore ears as their oxes are also gored. The entire Quebec construction industry will collapse due to lack of bribes. Etcetera. Stony-faced humorless EU bureaucrats will be on top of the graft and corruption trade, no doubt, so we will put up with edicts on the need for straight bananas. Maybe processed food will eventually come in standardized weight and volume containers that make sense, unlike the present situation. We can only hope.

        • 0 avatar

          @romismak – How would the EU benefit more than the US from a FTA between the two? We already have, or have had most of the top makes and models from EU OEMs. Could this be because EU OEMs only face a 2.5% US tariff vs a 10% EU tariff going the other way?

          • 0 avatar

            An FTA would make it easier for the European automakers with US operations to export back to Europe. The primary beneficiaries would be Daimler and BMW.

            The Europeans aren’t going to start buying US domestics just because they get a bit cheaper when they’re tariff-free. From the US perspective, cars are not really a top agenda for an FTA. There are other issues, such as being able to sell US food products in Europe, including GMO foods that the Europeans reject.

          • 0 avatar

            I really think EU-US deal benefits EU more, agree with other poster that said Daimler and BMW will benefit from it, but not only from US exports to EU, but also otherwise – so it´s somehow balanced. From US automakers there is not big benefit, only for Asians i think they can export to Europe, Ford´s US cars are not suitable for EU customers and tastes and Ford is already in Europe – i mean manufacturing, GM – Chevy, GMC are not for sale in Europe and those few Cadillacs – it might help somehow.

            So besides Asians and Daimler, BMW it might help Chrysler- but with EU plants utilization i think it would help other way around EU export to US not other way around with US plants running at full capacity.

            So from EU perspective it helps all germans – Daimler, BMW, VW and Audi, also Asians can export to US just like from US to EU.

            Than FCA probably will benefit too.

            Basically it helps more EU- but not by much , not like JAP-EU deal would benefit Japanese for example.

            Problem with US is their cars are not popular here in Europe, so basically US automakers don ´t get any help from such deal, FCA would benefit, but with their US plants and EU plants utilization they would choose EU to US exports not other way around

      • 0 avatar

        Bertel always talked about the increasing no. of import sales but he ignored that much of that was Japanese branded models imported to Japan from Thailand, the US, etc.

        Tho, recently, the % of foreign imports has risen.

  • avatar

    It sounds as if the Nikkei got this backwards. According to the Japan Automobile Importers Association:

    New registrations of imports by Japanese automakers, January-September 2013: 53,389

    New registrations of imports by all automakers, January-September 2013: 257,837

    Market share of imports by Japanese automakers: 20.7%

    New registrations of imports by Japanese automakers, January-September 2014: 36,939

    New registrations of imports by all automakers, January-September 2014: 250,400

    Market share of imports by Japanese automakers: 14.8%.

    Their imports by Japanese automakers actually fell by 31%, faster than the import market as a whole.

    In any case, that’s not a lot of cars in either instance. Japan’s auto market is largely domestic.

  • avatar

    Slow Nikkei day.

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