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Luxury or bust for foreign automakers in Japan


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Are there any Tesla in Japan at all? I haven't seen one yet. True or not, my image of Japanese cars is the same as Furudera's - reliable but boring. On the other hand, how much fun can you have in a nice car here, anyway? There are no good roads to drive them on. Little tiny strips of asphalt in the cities, or the bumpy hell that are the highways...

The most interesting Japanese brand right now is Mazda, by the way.

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Good article. It is not just the reliable-but-boring characteristic, it is the mostly-dull designs that put me off. But, hey, it suits many. So, who am I to argue with the market?

Plenty of good roads in Hokkaido, Fuben. In summer anyway. Just keep off the main ones.

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Trains and bikes are the best and healthiest for the economy and physical well being of people.

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Are there any Tesla in Japan at all?

I've seen a couple, and I talked to a guy last year who was just about to start working in a position for Tesla Japan - I believe they were just starting or had just started up recently. So it's here, just not that prevalent yet.

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Most of Japanese cars are coming from a software design and not from a designer's creative mind, to me, they all look coming from either a boring cube or a boring egg + 4 wheels.

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Skyline can get the pulse going a bit

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Yes. Ford is blaming the "closed market" for poor sales... ! remember when the American auto makers were complaining about car sales in Japan when the steering wheel wasn't even of the "right" side. Give me a break!! I myself drive a Jeep. I know it is not as reliable as a Toyota Land Cruiser but I think it has much more style.

The American car dealers cry "Open the market! Open the market!" If the cars were truly "miryokuteki" or attractive, the consumers would be making this demand. Not the auto makers.

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Yes, Tesla markets cars in Japan! I drive one here.

The last time I asked the dealer (one in Tokyo, one in Osaka) they told me that they had sold about 1000 cars in Japan over the past 18 months.

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it doesnt help when evrybody wants to drive a grey brown or white car, youll notice the european models are in colors like blue red etc bright colors. Japanese have got to get away from what is a sensible aka boring color and what is stylish, eg blues greens yellows etc. Ive even seen Japanese driving Ferraris is grey, brown AMFG, theyve destroyed the whole point of owning a Ferrari in the first place!

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Out of all the Japanese cars, Subarus are probably the ones that focus on and deliver the best driving experience, and they also sell the highest proportion of MT (Manual Transmission) cars too.

There is one hotel in Tokyo that has at least 6 Tesla cars on long-term parking contracts in its basement car park, and many more hotels have them and high-end European sports cars parked in the same way. I guess if you can afford one, you can afford the parking fee, and it is certainly safer than your neighbourhood car park.

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Are there any Tesla in Japan at all? I haven't seen one yet.

There are a decent number of them in Tokyo, typically nicer neighborhoods. I've seen a decent number of them on the road. Unfortunately though, no supercharger stations outside of one in Yokohama or something. So these people are just driving around their house and coming back home--not driving across Japan (not like you'd do that with Shinkansen anyways)

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There are a decent number of them in Tokyo, typically nicer neighborhoods.

Ah, yeah, I should have known. I am not in one of those, maybe that's why I don't see them.

If the cars were truly "miryokuteki" or attractive, the consumers would be making this demand. Not the auto makers.

I am not so sure about that. Japanese in general seem pretty loyal to locally produced goods, and I think that goes for cars as well. That said, many foreign brands have work to do if they want to sell here. I guess that's why brand pull out of Japan - the reward isn't worth the hassle.

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I am scrapping my Subaru WRX tomorrow morning because I ride my bike all the time. I had it 17 years. It never broke down, carried four people and two dogs and remains faster point to point than that Lamborghini, and @ 5.6 seconds only half a second slower than a Countach 0-60 mph. In year after I bought it was UK Car Magazine's car of the decade.

"they’re not very interesting to drive.”

:-) He just wants to show of his beamer which are expensive just for that sake.

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That's a fun car, Timtak, we had one 15 years ago or so.

:-) He just wants to show of his beamer which are expensive just for that sake.

I think you're right about BMW guy. We had a Mitsubishi GTO and that was fun, too! Japan makes some interesting cars.

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@fuzzycuffs - not driving across Japan (not like you'd do that with Shinkansen anyways)

Put three or four people in a car and it is much cheaper per person that the Shinkansen. Take my family all over the country in my Subie, bikes on the back, stop off whenever and wherever you like. Highways, the little roads and off-road, goes anywhere. You can also park your car, walk off and leave it, knowing it will still be there when you return. Come across some great places that way. Like timtak's car, it has never broken down, and if it did, there is a good network of garages all around the country.

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For driving fun, a BRZ/86 will completely own that dude's BMW at a fraction of the cost. Plenty of other great Japanese cars too, the two seater Mazdas, the GT-R and Fairlady, WRX Subarus (regular Imprezzas are meh), and for the big spenders, the "Japanese Ferrari" itself, the NSX back to attack.

Even the fastest-ever kei car, the Alto Works, has been brought back into production. On Youtube, you can a modded old one overtaking sports cars on a track.

Anyway, with the BRZ, the NSX, and the Alto Works all new or relatively new, it's a strange time to be calling Japanese cars dull or to suggest local manufacturers are ignoring this segment.

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Ford has gone because the majority of its cars are mundane and Japan has mundane aplenty. Japan builds interesting cars and BMW, Mercedes et al build some pretty mundane motors too. The point I'm trying to make of course is that no-one pays extra for mundane. If you buy and use your cars like you would a washing machine or a cooker then you are likely to choose one that's good value and causes the least offence.

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I've been a BMW customer for years but I sold my car last year since I only drove it once every 6-8 months.

Ironically, it seems that in places like Tokyo, London or Paris, owning a car is actually becoming a sign of poverty rather than wealth. The only people I know who still own a car are those who can't afford to live in the city centre or who work at a blue collar job with parking rather than in an office building. (Of course it's different in less urban city).

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(Un)fortunately, there are only limited places where you can drive a car interestingly in Japan. 99% of the time, you'll be another slug in the traffic, trying vigorously not to get hit by a 90-year-old grandma in a moving pink box.

That being said, I would love to try out my neighbour's tuned up Subaru on some mountain roads, after getting a proper life insurance. That thing looks sweet as hell.

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@fuzzycuffs. Nobody pays over 12 million yen for a car to just drive around the block. Teslas can charge at any of the "EV Quick" chargers in Japan and most expressway Service Areas have them. I could cross country if I wanted to easily.

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subaru impreza, nissan skyline gtr, subaru wrx, Nissan gtr, Mitsubishi evo, Missan 370z, non of these are boring! the GTR is excellent value for money and goes like XXXXX

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Entry or mid-range American cars will never be popular in Japan, and it has nothing to do with "non-tariff barriers" or whatever. Japanese cars in the same range are of much superior quality, so why would anyone want a shoddy American car for around the same price? The real barrier is their poor quality, but Americans refuse to admit that so they make up other excuses. The only American cars that would have any chance are sports cars/muscle cars, i.e. types of cars that Japanese companies don't make, and even then only with a particular type of buyer.

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" it isn’t hard to spot a Porsche zipping around the capital or a nouveau riche billionaire behind the wheel of a Lamborghini." I've lived in Tokyo for over 40 years and I cannot remember ever having seen a Lamborghini outside of a showroom.

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I saw a Lamborghini in Kurume three weeks ago. But, what with all the Tesla posts above I had a look at the "Tesla launch" videos on YouTube, e.g. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LpaLgF1uLB8 This is an American car I would like to drive.

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Driving a Lambo within Tokyo is one of the most torturous acts I can think of. Doing a dance of half clutch and brakes at every signal. Ever watching the width of the road eyeballing if the car can make it through.

It's just not worth it.

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You can't say that around here, Striker10. Around here, USA = good; Japan = bad.

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Are there any Tesla in Japan at all?

Yes, and they are the same exact price with as in the USA with exchange rate. I have seen them numerous times.

When Japanese people buy foreign cars they don't buy American ones, they buy European ones.

non-tariff barriers

OK, someone please tell me what this means exactly!!!???

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Well, the US trade representative demanded that Japanese car companies be forced to sell American cars, so the American car companies don't have to set up distributorships here. Not agreeing to this reasonable demand is a "non-tariff barrier."

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Well, the US trade representative demanded that Japanese car companies be forced to sell American cars

Toyota selling Buicks?

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That is what Toyota is doing at Duo Volkswagen outlets.

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Nissan gtr, Mitsubishi evo, Missan 370z, non of these are boring! the GTR is excellent value for money and goes like XXXXX yep ive owned numerious Silvias, Skylines, WRX, currently a EVO 9 all go great and really easy to get extra power, my Evo curently making around 350~370hp more than enough to wipe the floor of most BMW, Mercs, Audi etc and at a fraction of the price, friend owns a 900hp R33 GTR and theres no factory car under 20million yen that can come close to it. my next car will be a GTR for sure.

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Quite suprising from a business perspective, given that the speed limits in Japan make the performance of a care irrelevant after a certain treshold. Especially buying the M version of a BMW seems like a waste since it doesn't look too different to the regular version, costs twice as much and the additional performance can't be used at all in Japan. Japan's a rich country after all.

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I just checked the Internet and there seems to have been some deal between them that finished in 2010 and began in the 90s. Called DUO. Old old news. It's finished now and VW has its own dealers here. VW is very bullish in Japan and don't have a problem here.

Can anyone explain Mercede's success in Japan? Check the news (a real source, actually) and you will see that Mercedes is passing VW on luxury car sales. People in Japan who like nice imports like Mercedes typically, and NOT Cadillac. Is that the Japanese government's fault?

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Well, the US trade representative demanded that Japanese car companies be forced to sell American cars, so the American car companies don't have to set up distributorships here. and they wont do it for free theyll certainly charge them for that. and if there forced to sell them at discount fees theyll just push them to the back of the showroom floors. at the end of the day you cant force Japanese to buy American cars, theyve got to be interested in buying them

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Luxury cars are high profit margins, so they don't need to sell as many relative to regular cars.

Selling premium cars in Japan in low percentage is just fine, but if you're aiming for the economy market and still only selling in the low percentage, that's no good because there's not as much operating profit there (compared to the premium cars). Making changes for relatively marginal profits may not be worth it, compared to diverting those resources to something else that would not cost as much but yield better returns.

Look at Mitsubishi:


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Don't forget there is the nation-wide Yanase that

has the rights of exclusive retailer of Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, Audi, BMW, Volvo, Saab, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge and Smart vehicles to Japanese consumers. It is part of the Itochu group. Yanase currently has 174 stores selling new cars in Japan and 31 stores that sell used cars

There is Japan's free car market. American cars included in a big free market. It's up to the car companies to make something attractive to the consumer in this market.

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Funny I can still reach Duo Volkswagen Tokyo and is a subsidiary of Toyota AdministaK.K. which is 100% owned by Toyota.


<http://www.toyota-administa.co.jp/index.html >

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Even if correct then so....?

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Non-tariff barrier: A barrier not related to a tariff. I am assuming there is no tariff (import tax) on these cars, so other reasons that people would not want to buy a US car since there is no extra import tax. Could be looks, efficiency, reliability, perception etc.

BmW M5 is a fine car and is used as the "taxi" on the AutoBahn. Example: Sabine Schmitz.

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I remember reading in the early 90s the large tank size Mercedes V-12 600SEL sold MORE models in Japan than in the US even with Japan's smaller population. The market is very free here. Just make a car the customer desires. And now Mercedes is doing quite well. To me Non-tariff barrier sound like an excuse.

But really, can you imagine a Japanese person wanting to drive a Buick?

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Not free? The US has tariffs on Japanese cars, even 50% tariff on Japanese pickup trucks to protect the US automakers. Japan has no tariffs.

The biggest barrier for US cars are ugliosity, big, wide rear ends on cars (how ironic) and did I mention ugly design? Japanese cars are filled with European cars for a reason. That reason is left as an exercise for the JT boys and girls.

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...did I mention ugly design?

Using the wide brush today, are we? To oversimplify it to that extent is ridiculous. There are many gringo cars that look better than the Japanese ones. Cars seem to be a very good reflection of the people in any given country. I would rather choose a Mustang, a Challenger or a Corvette any day over an NSX, Skyline or EVO. To me, the Japanese cars are too bland. Ultimately, it's a personal choice

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Fuben, are you choosing these cars on sentimentality grounds? or looks? or on engineering quality? if your talking about the 1960 stuff yes it pretty and iconic, ref bullet film and the dukes of hazard, I've driven the new versions around a race track both the new mustangs and GTRs and I can assure you that driving the mustang (2012 model) it was horrible it slopped and rolled around and it was scary, but the GTRs and other stuff was and is more advanced on suspension and road holding, and its fun to drive. The brand new Mustang that has just arrived in the UK, it has ONLY just had coil spring on the rear suspension and Ford have done away with the LIVE axel, WOW!, all the other car manufacturers did away with this old teck back in the 1980's this is how slow the USA car manufactures have been to modernise.

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Tesla is one of the most boring 'fad' cars I've ever owned or driven.

Please tell us the lineup of all your cars you own. I sure wish I had that kind of disposable income.

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I would rather choose a Mustang, a Challenger or a Corvette

For Japanese roads? You must be out of your mind.

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Japan is open to imports of foreign cars, there are very low import duties. Bottom line, in the everyday compact/midsize segment, American cars are way behind Japanese cars, so low demand in Japan is because of market forces. SUVs and Luxury Vehicles outside of chauffer driven Crown Cars are vehicles of choice for Japanese entrepreneurs and highest earning executives. I have a friend in Tokyo from Hokkaido, both of her parents in Sappiro shi drive Mercedes Benz. And these are very typical Japan centric people who never travel abroad, even though they can afford to. So Trump, as always, is wrong, because this is not due to trade restrictions or Japanese government policies.

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