- Feb 26, 2007
Yen vs. Dollar/Euro: Both US and European automakers feeling the pinch
The Jetta has trouble competing against the Civic on price alone
The European manufacturers have even more trouble competing against the Japanese currency juggernaut. High-dollar BMW and Mercedes can hang with the likes of Lexus, but high-volume manufacturers can't even keep up with the prices of US automakers much less the Japanese. The reason is the extremely high value of the Euro. VW makes great cars and they even have a "three for less than $17,000" ad but when content is added the price skyrockets. Put the Civic next to the Jetta in a price vs. content contest and the Civic wins. It's not as big a deal for VW here in the US as it is in their home market, where Japanese automakers are eating up market-share.
In the US some are saying the Democratic Congress will look to erase the currency deficit to protect domestic automakers, but other than making an open plea to the Japanese government to raise interest rates the only other option is a tariff. That just doesn't jive that well with the whole "free trade" principal that makes the US so attractive to manufacturers the world over.
In the end, even the Japanese automakers are vulnerable to still lower-cost automakers. Many reviews of the Yaris have been less than glowing because of cheap materials and poor performance. To me that means Toyota has to sweat a bit to make a top-notch vehicle for $13,000. Hyundai won't have the same problems. Due to cheap labor and even cheaper currency, they'll be able to produce the same vehicle with better materials for less money. Ford, GM and others will have to make their small cars in Mexico or China to compete and the US consumer will win: unless they make their money in manufacturing.