Toyotas, Walkmans Rise In Price As Dollar Falls With PM-Dollar-Imports-List
Jan. 07, 1988
NEW YORK (AP) _ American consumers aren't feeling the full brunt of the dollar's nearly three-year decline in spite of big price rises for items such as cutlery, cameras and china.
Imported coffee, fruits and vegetables are cheaper now than they were when the dollar peaked in early 1985. It costs $18.95 for a bottle of Moet & Chandon champagne on New York's fashionable Upper East Side, but that's only $1 more than in the fall of 1986.
A cheaper dollar makes imports more expensive, but fears of a round of serious import-price inflation have eased in recent days along with the dollar's rebound from its depressed level of the final days of 1987.
The only drawback to the modest import price increases is that it means the falling dollar is not helping U.S. manufacturers combat the flood of imports as much as expected.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics says cutlery rose 40 percent, cameras 39 percent and china 50 percent in its tabulation of import prices between March 1985 and September 1987.
But price increases have been smaller for footwear (about 14 percent), furniture (about 19 percent), and apparel (about 13 percent).
Even though the Japanese yen rose 70 percent against the dollar in the two years from October 1985 to October 1987, the price of a typical car from Toyota Motor Corp. climbed only 24 percent.
Toyota's four-door Corolla sedan with no options rose 24.5 percent over the period to a suggested list price of $8,898 from $7,148. The 1988 model is a better car, though, with a fancier interior, longer wheelbase, better suspension and more efficient engine.
How does Toyota do it?
''Japan's nothing but a big factory. Raw materials come in at one end and finished products come out at the other, and raw materials prices have gone down,'' said James Olson, spokesman for Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc. in Torrance, Calif.
Toyota also cut overhead costs, froze hiring and, Olson said, took ''a huge hit in profits'' to maintain its U.S. sales. Toyota's U.S. market share actually rose by the end of 1987 to 6 percent from 5.6 percent a year earlier, he said.
French winemakers have tried to hold the line on their prices in order to hang onto their share of the U.S. market.
But even the modest French price increases have given an edge to winemakers in the United States as well as emerging winemaking countries such as Australia and Chile, whose currencies have fallen or steadied against the dollar.
Sherry-Lehmann Inc. on Manhattan's Upper East Side has increased its line of Australian wines from three to 36 in the last 1 1/2 years even though, buyer Michael Yurch said, ''We're old-guard and old-line, because that's what our clientele is.''
Coffee prices are down 21 percent since early 1985, partly because of better crops and partly because the dollar has risen against currencies of the Latin American nations that produce the beans.
Sugar, likewise, is up a scant 7 percent, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data for the period from March 1985 to September 1987.
Consumer import prices overall rose 21 percent over the 2 1/2 -year period, according to the government agency. Import price increases for the months since September will not be available until the end of January.
Televisions fell 3.2 percent in price over the 2 1/2 -year period, the agency said, partly because the Japanese dominance of the market has been challenged by nations such as South Korea, whose currencies are closely linked to the dollar.
In contrast, the dollar's rise against the West German mark has contributed to a roughly 40 percent rise in prices of cameras, binoculars, telescopes and similar gear from West Germany.
Companies usually work hardest to hold the line on consumer prices because consumers are more sensitive to price than business customers are.
Sony Corp., for example, on Monday put through price increases of 5 to 6 percent on consumer goods and 7 percent on professional products.