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No. 366, March 2000

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American Companies in Japan


TRANSPORTATION EQUIPMENT

Having forged potentially powerful equity and technical ties with FUJI HEAVY INDUSTRIES, LTD., ISUZU MOTORS LTD. and SUZUKI MOTOR CORP. in its drive to expand sales in Japan and the rest of Asia (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 364, January 2000, p. 32), GENERAL MOTORS CORP. now is exploring other ways to apply its partnership strategy to achievement of this goal. For instance, the e-GM e-commerce business unit of the world's top automotive manufacturer has approached TOYOTA MOTOR CORP. about using its Japanese-language Gazoo Web site to provide information to Japanese customers about GM products, such as prices and dealer locations. GM's subsidiary has its own Japanese-language Web site, but it has not been very successful in generating sales leads. Gazoo, in contrast, is the most frequently accessed virtual vehicle showroom in Japan. At first glance, GM might appear presumptuous in asking Toyota to share its Web site. However, the two automotive giants are co-owners of 16-year-old NEW UNITED MOTOR MANUFACTURING INC. in Fremont, California, and they currently have an extensive R&D collaboration involving new vehicle technologies.

Both of the American-associated on-line vehicle-buying services now have MITSUBISHI MOTORS CORP. as a participant. Japan's number-four automotive maker was one of eight car and truck companies linked with CARPOINT JAPAN K.K., a MICROSOFT CORP. affiliate, on its launch last year (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 362, November 1999, p. 26). Requests for information on Mitsubishi Motors products received by CarPoint are forwarded to 63 of the company's dealers in Tokyo as well as in surrounding Kanagawa, Chiba and Saitama prefectures. Now, MMC has signed on with AUTOBYTEL.COM INC.'s Japanese unit. During a test period that will last through May, 91 Mitsubishi Motors dealers in the Tokyo metropolitan area as well as in Aichi, Hyogo, Kyoto and Osaka prefectures will handle leads generated by Autobytel, whose computer will be linked with the automaker's OnlineCounter system. The number of participating dealers could be expanded if the Autobytel test is successful.

In forecasting first-year sales of its new Focus subcompact car at a robust 5,000 vehicles, FORD MOTOR CO. obviously believes that its latest "world car" will achieve the same relative success in Japan that it has enjoyed in Europe and especially in the United States since introduction last fall. The 1.6-liter Focus wagon, which went on sale at the beginning of March, incorporates a number of safety-oriented features. It has a suggested price of $18,300 or so.

The aircraft engine servicing business in Japan is on the verge of being reshaped. Late last year, GENERAL ELECTRIC CO., the world's top manufacturer of jet engines, initiated tie-up talks with ALL NIPPON AIRWAYS CO., LTD. and ISHIKAWAJIMA-HARIMA HEAVY INDUSTRIES CO., LTD. (see Japan- U.S. Business Report No. 363, December 1999, p. 39). Now, GE's chief rival, the Pratt & Whitney unit of UNITED TECHNOLOGIES CORP., has agreed to partner with JAPAN AIRLINES CO., LTD. on aircraft engine maintenance. Under the deal, the East Hartford, Connecticut-head-quartered company will acquire part of JAL's interest in JAPAN TURBINE TECHNOLOGIES CO., LTD. and all of NIPPON STEEL CORP.'s 49 percent stake for an undisclosed price. On completion, P&W will own 66.6 percent of Chiba prefecture-based Japan Turbine Technologies, which was formed in April 1988, and JAL the balance. Like the proposed GE consortium, the P&W-led company intends to seek maintenance work from other airlines in addition to being responsible for the servicing of JAL's fleet of planes, which are powered predominantly by P&W engines.

Business-jet aircraft manufacturer GULFSTREAM AIRCRAFT CORP. has delivered a fifth Gulfstream IV- MPA to the Air Self-Defense Force. The multimission plane, designated the U-4 in Japan, is equipped with a versatile interior that can be converted within an hour for passenger, high-priority cargo or medical- evacua-tion purposes. It also has a special 5-foot x 6-foot cargo door to facilitate medical-evacuation needs. The Gulfstream IV-MPA has a 4,220-nautical-mile range and can cruise at altitudes of up to 45,000 feet. Savannah, Georgia-headquartered Gulfstream is owned by GENERAL DYNAMICS CORP.

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