Chrysler Execs: Let's Wait and See About Japanese Parts, Dealer Moves
Nov. 12, 1991
WINDSOR, Ontario (AP) _ Chrysler Corp. executives publicly expressed skepticism Tuesday at efforts by Japan's auto industry to buy more American parts and open its dealer networks to U.S. vehicles in Japan.
''The only thing that counts with Japan anymore is action, not pronouncements,'' said Chrysler President Robert Lutz. ''Let's see whether it happens.''
Their remarks made Chrysler the first of the Big Three to challenge the the initiatives offered by leading Japanese automakers designed to ease tensions caused by the enormous trade imbalance in cars.
Chrysler has taken one of the biggest beatings at the hands of the Japanese competition in recent years, and is among the most outspoken critics of what it considers Japan's unfair trading practices with the United States.
Toyota Motor Corp. said Sunday it plans to boost spending on U.S. parts to $5 billion by mid-1994. Last week, Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. said it would raise its U.S. spending to $3.3 billion by the same time and Mazda Motor Corp. plans to double its U.S. purchasing for a line of cars made in Japan which never will be shipped to the United States.
During the past month, Toyota and Nissan also announced they would allow their Japanese dealers to sell cars made by other automakers. But that didn't impress Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca on Tuesday.
''They haven't told me yet,'' he said. ''I got a guy by the name of Honda who opened up his, but he's only sold 300 in a year. We'd like to get 50,000. They should do that because we opened up our dealerships to them.''
In June 1990, Honda Motor Co. Ltd. and Chrysler reached an agreement for Honda to distribute Chrysler Jeep sport-utility vehicles in Japan through the Japanese automaker's Primo dealer organization. At that time, the companies estimated that 2,000 1991-model Jeep Cherokee and Wranglers would be sold annually in Japan.
Honda spokesman Bob Butorac had no immediate comment.
Iacocca's and Lutz's comments came at Chrysler's Windsor, Ont., minivan plant after presentation of the Canada Award for Business Excellence for quality. It's similar to the Baldrige Award in the United States and the Deming Award in Japan.
Trade issues have created increasingly troublesome friction between the United States and Japan. About 75 percent of the $41 billion U.S. trade imbalance with Japan last year stemmed from automobiles and auto parts.
The moves on U.S. parts buying and opening domestic dealers is seen as a tactical blow by the Japanese aimed at derailing protectionist sentiment in Washington and blunting complaints by Carla Hills, the special White House trade representative who is visiting Japan later this week.
Secretary of State James Baker on Monday asked Japan to ease restrictions on importation of American rice, and Japanese officials said they would consider it. The rice importation issue is an emotional one for the Japanese government and people.
Lutz said a change in the Japanese stance on importing rice may be a symbolic one, but will not ''do a lot to alleviate the monumental trade deficit that we have in cars and parts.''