With global economies suffering from pandemic-related lockdowns, there’s been just one question burning in the minds of economists: ‘When will Chinese automotive sales finally rebound so that the industry can once again feel comfortable enough to keep pouring resources into Central Asia?’
China’s car market just recorded its first quarter of year-over-year sales growth in two years, with last month’s volume rising 12.8 percent (vs 2019) to 2.57 million units, according to the China Passenger Car Association (CPCA). While its always wise to keep in mind that the nation has a history of obfuscating figures that might paint it in a bad light, CPCA has been slightly more consistent in its reporting than the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM). Both outlets also have a tenancy to showcase blind optimism for the local economy, but there appears to have been good reason for that over the last five months.
It’s no secret the Japanese marketplace has never made room for American automobiles. Western cars have a serious image problem in the Land of the Rising Sun, compounded by an exceptionally high cost of entry that prohibits outside companies from wanting to risk establishing an extensive dealer network. The end result is a handful of American cars being sold every year — primarily in boutique shops as novelty items.
The exceptions are premium offerings from Europe and Jeep. That isn’t to suggest that Jeep products are common place in Japan but they are one of the few domestic offerings that have achieved any kind of sales consistency or growth within the country. It’s carving out a small place for itself in the Eastern market and putting other American brands to shame.
Jeep has a storied history in Japan. In the mid-nineties, it was mixing it up with other domestic brands — made more viable by a favorable exchange rate. A few years later, foreign automakers saw their already meager sales dwindling to practically nothing and some (Ford for instance) pulled out of the country entirely. But Jeep held on and became America’s number one brand in Japan.
Indonesia is the biggest vehicle market in Southeast Asia, and Ford Motor Company is running away from it.