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Jeep Marks U.S. Return to Tokyo Motor Show

Brand hadn't exhibited since 2007. Detroit Three out since 2009.

by on Oct.30, 2015

Fiat Chrysler showed eight vehicles in its display at the Tokyo Motor Show: the first time it has been there in eight years.

Among the dozens of cars and concept vehicles on display at the Tokyo Motor Show this year will be eight from Fiat Chrysler. While FCA won’t be introducing anything new, its appearance at the Tokyo Big Sky convention center is nonetheless noteworthy because it marks the maker’s first appearance at the biennial show in eight years.

In fact, none of the Big Three automakers have displayed at the show since 2009, and Jeep’s been out since 2007.

The Last Word!

Detroit makers, in general, have been wary about even operating in Japan, long arguing that they’ve effectively been locked out of what Detroit makers have often argued is a “closed” market for foreign brands.

Japanese automakers have long contested the portrayal of their home market as closed, and point to successes by European manufacturers in selling to Japanese drivers as evidence. American companies have failed to offer models tailored to Japanese tastes, said Ron Bookbinder, general director of Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association’.

“The Japanese market is in fact open, but the Detroit Three aren’t interested in selling in Japan,” he said.

The old Chrysler Corp. made a big, albeit brief, push in the 1990s with the launch of its Dodge Neon model, quitting Japan when sales fell far short of expectations. Some other foreign brands, notably Koreans Hyundai and Kia also quit the market in 2009 when the market sagged.

(Latest Honda airbag recall lengthens shadow of product doubt. For more, Click Here.)

The makers could not justify the expenses surrounding the development of a dealer network let alone trying to challenge rules against manufacturing vehicles in Japan.

For U.S. makers, not much has changed since it essentially withdrew from the market. According to the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association USA, the U.S. makers sold 20,185 cars, 1,304 trucks and seven buses to Japan in 2013.

According to the UAW, for every one U.S. vehicle sold in Japan, 130 Japanese vehicles are sold in the U.S. In the simplest of terms, the U.S. manufacturers less than 1% of all cars sold in Japan.

(Click Here for details about FCA posting a Q3 loss due to recall costs.)

Those who had hoped the much-ballyhooed Trans-Pacific Partnership would loosen the restrictions on U.S. makers there, look to be disappointed. Despite heavy pressure from the White House on the Japanese government for much of the year, there hasn’t been much movement on the issue.

“If the market conditions change in Japan, we may consider returning. We still sell buses in Japan,” Hyundai officials said in a statement to TheDetroitBureau.com.

For now, Fiat Chrysler is the only Detroit maker testing the waters in Japan, again showing models rom Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Jeep, Chrysler and Abarth. However, it’s not exactly the beginning of a rush to return to the show.

(Mopar blitzing SEMA with entire FCA portfolio. For more, Click Here.)

An unofficial count on the show floor showed only six U.S.-made vehicles on display. Of those, the Jeep Wrangler was the only “American” brand. The rest were vehicles made in the U.S. but sold by foreign automakers, such as BMW’s X5, which is produced at the company’s plant in South Carolina.

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