“Sentiment, nostalgia” -- this is the reason why GM’s oldest and biggest dealer in Japan, Yanase & Co., keeps on selling Cadillacs and Chevrolets in the country despite low demand for the vehicles. The dealer’s chief executive, Takeyoshi Ide, also has words to describe GM’s apparent dull in Japan – “lack of effort.”
Dealers have found it increasingly harder to sell GM vehicles nowadays, no thanks to a paltry lineup as well as lackluster brand images hurt further the carmaker’s bankruptcy in 2009 and recent recalls. Yanase also continues to sell GM vehicles thanks to the small expectation that the carmaker will be back.
While a comeback would not be impossible, it could be a long shot. GM’ sales in Japan reached it summit in 1996, when it and Opel sold 47,000 vehicles. The figure has fallen drastically since. In 2009, GM sold just 700 vehicles. It improved in 2013, to just 1,200 units, and is expected to stay flat this year.
Yanase used to have 114 outlets for GM, but now has just 13. Yanase, however, doesn’t need GM to be profitable, as the carmaker only accounts 1.4 percent of the dealer’s volume. Yanase is in fact the best-selling dealer for Mercedes-Benz in Japan and is considered as one of the largest Audi and BMW retailers in the country.
On the other hand, GM needs Yanase, since the retailer may account for almost half of all its products sold in Japan. Ide expects GM’s move to tap outsiders to handle its management – including the hiring of former Infiniti chief Johan de Nysschen at Cadillac – would inject some global perspective into its Detroit-centric mindset.
Ide remarked that while they awaiting change, GM's original people from the US cannot make that happen. He quipped that while GM faces several hurdles in Japan, so-called non-tariff barriers are not among them.
US trade negotiators and auto executives usually blame non-tariff barriers like currency manipulation and onerous local regulations for hurting imports' chances in Japan. For Ide, those are just excuses made up preserve the 25-percent tariff imposed by the US on imported truck as well as the 2.5-percent tariff imposed on cars imported from Japan. [source: automotive news - sub. required]