• Jan 18, 2009
If you think things have been tough for General Motors in America, you should see how bad it's going for them in Japan. Forget pulling out of the Tokyo Motor Show, we're talking a steady sales decline over the past decade that has brought volume to just 2,000 units a year from a high of 50,000 in 1996. That really sucks, so GM wants to try and change things ASAP. They have announced a modest goal of doubling sales in Japan over the next three years.
Part of the problem with Japanese sales is image, but product selection and a shrinking dealer network are also to blame. Rick Brown, president of GM Japan, says they plan to address those issues by adding a couple of dealerships a year, and by shaking up the product mix. They plan to start selling the Chevy Aveo, the new 2010 Camaro, and despite the struggling economy, some new luxury cars and SUVs like the Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon, Saab 9-3X, 9-4X and 9-5.

Even though those products might help, it might be a case of too little too late. Japanese buyers might be even more hesitant than usual to buy cars from the Detroit 3 because of bankruptcy fears. It's not like Ford and Chrysler are doing any better in Japan either, with similar sales declines over the pact ten years. Heck, they aren't even buying as many domestic cars these days.

[Source: Automotive News, sub. req.]


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  • 18 Comments
      • 6 Years Ago
      Being president of GM Japan has to be the easiest job ever. It never even dawned on me that someone has the job of selling the few cars.

      Incidentally I wish them luck on selling 2 cars in japan by 2011.

        • 6 Years Ago
        "They plan to start selling the Chevy Aveo, the new 2010 Camaro, and despite the struggling economy, some new luxury cars and SUVs like the Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon, Saab 9-3X, 9-4X and 9-5."

        The only American market cars GM should attempt to sell in Japan are the Vette, Camaro, and CTS. They won't sell in large volume, but there will be Japanese consumers who are willing to pay for the unique American nature of those beasts - just as there are Japanese who are willing to buy Mercedes even though they have the worst reliability in the industry.

        GM can probably sell some Commodores there also.

        If GM wants to go mainstream in Japan, they need to sell small cars from Europe such as the Agila, Corsa, and Astra. Selling the Aveo there is a mistake.

        Saab is a waste of R&D. It should be axed globally.
      • 6 Years Ago
      There is no point selling an American car in Japan that isn't a luxury car or an exotic/near-exotic. The rest of the lineup is too plain-Jane to warrant what will certainly be a severe premium over equivalent Japanese models (thanks to a very high import tax).

      GM will have to be satisfied with being a niche player in Japan--it's all any non-Japanese company is. I read somewhere all non-Japanese marques COMBINED sell less than 100,000 cars a year.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I agree. The Japanese are far too xenophobic. I LOVE Japan but this is one of the things that I don't appreciate about them, especially given the fact they love Western culture.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I don't think the Aveo will work in Japan. The Corvette, Camaro, CTS-V should be the cars for the Japanese market. Harley-Davidson is big in Japan because the testosterone charged American image and this is how we should sell these cars. Saab can help against the consumer interested in a VW but GM should know that sales are always going to be minor.
      • 6 Years Ago
      they aren't selling well here and they want to sell in japan?
      • 6 Years Ago
      I dunno about being xenophobic, but I think more than anything image and brand loyalty are the biggest reasons Japanese people will continue to purchase Japanese cars.

      Among the already mentioned expensive import taxes, another reason that Japanese people won't buy run of the mill American cars is because parts are also way too expensive.

      What bodes even worse for GM is the continuing trend that younger people (those who would be more willing to experiment on a newer brand) are actually forgoing automobiles for newer gadgets. I totally agree that any American car maker could never be more than a niche market. The only place they'll sell cars out here is in the cities, and I'd rather walk than drive a Camaro in Osaka (not to mention park it).
      • 6 Years Ago
      The Japanese automobile market is closed but not as much as it used to be. First of all, all the foreign makes (Germany's included) do not compete in the big market for micro cars that are a big chunk of the market.

      Second many manufacturers sell cars that are left-hand drive and expect the Japanese to buy them. How successful would Toyota be in the U.S. if all their Camrys and Corollas came right-hand drive?

      Third, Japan is very crowded and the market for large cars is limited. Having said that, in the segments of luxury and large car, the competition from Germany is imense. I believe that the Germans have a huge percentage of the large and luxury segment. The Japanese are willing to buy a foreign make as long as the perception of luxury and quality (i.e. German cars) is there.

      Don't expect to sell many Camaro's in the land of $7/gallon, especially if you are offering LHD. As for the Aveo, if GM has trouble competing this car against the Honda Fit and even the Hyundais, how do they expect to make headways with it in a land where the Fit (Jazz) is domestic, good dealer network and good reliability reputation?
      GM's only bet is to sell "cute" cars for the Japanese who are crazy for such stuff such as Hello Kitty. Get a Chevy Beat or some other funky design, make it RHD, put a competitive selling price and maybe, they will increase sales.

      My only question is why is Opel not more succesful in Japan? They do have RHD courtesy of Vauhxall, some cars such as the Corsa and Astra and have a German-built reputation. Possibly a minuscule dealer network.....
      • 6 Years Ago
      Gee, and here all of Detroit's kool aide drinkers have been telling us that Japan is closed to US brands. Now the truth comes out that GM alone was selling 50,000 per year, but has let that drop. Guess they'll have to come up with another excuse to blame for their non-competitiveness.
      Ummm, currency exchange! Yeah, that's it!
      • 6 Years Ago
      I like how GM uses SAAB ONLY when it benefits GM, but never puts adequate funding into them, then blames SAAB for sucking.


      Lutz is a retard.
      • 6 Years Ago
      For starters, they can move the steering wheel to the right hand side...just a thought
      • 6 Years Ago

      Oh and why the hell does gm think the aveo is such a good car? It's a blandbox that doesn't beat the japanese in america and it doesn't have a snowballs chance in statans fireplace in japan.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Here is why it could be good gor GM one way or the other!

      The model needs to change from being a very small niche at premium prices to a low cost model to undercut the competition. Use a page from the Japanese & Korean model.
      ** Currency valuations are starting to correct where they should be versus previous munipulation.
      ** Container ships are low cost in the return trip to Japan since they are usually near empty.
      ** Our vehicles can meet japan regulations.
      ** Most GM global cars are designed to be built in RHD & LHD.
      ** All that needs streamlining is the import barriers and distribution channels to reduce add-on costs.
      ** GM has world class vehicles today. Perceptions can be changed, and low cost is the carrot to get them to try.

      For North America
      ** Increase the use of GM manufacturing facilities to get economies of scale.
      ** If trade barriers cannot be broken down, it would give credence to enforce reciprocal policies in North America. This would raise Japan import car prices.
      ** It could force Japan automakers to lower their cost in their home market if they want to compete. This will make them weaker. If not, this will bring our prestige up showing value.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Opel did sell cars in Japan but quit a few years ago because of poor sales.

      Richard S, you have it the wrong way round with Opel and Vauxhall. Vauxhall is just the name that GM uses in Britain for Opel cars (the ranges have been totally identical since the early 1980s), and the R&D is based in Germany.
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