Japan-US Business Report LogoJapan-U.S. Business Report

No. 347, August 1998

Issue Index

Japanese Companies in the US


The Prius hybrid-powered sedan will arrive at TOYOTA MOTOR CORP. dealerships in North America in the fall of 2000. The Corolla-sized car incorporates a 1.5-liter gasoline engine and an electric motor powered by a nickel-metal hydride battery pack. The Prius operates on electricity at low speeds and switches automatically to the gasoline engine at about 30 miles per hour. The battery pack is recharged by routing power from the gasoline engine to an on-board electric generator; thus, unlike electric vehicles, it never needs to be plugged in. Between now and the North American launch of Prius, which went on sale in Japan last December, Toyota engineers will be working to modify the vehicle, focusing in particular on its exhaust emissions and its fuel economy. Prius was designed at Toyota's Torrance, California design studio.

Early in 1999, production will start at HONDA LOCK MANUFACTURING CO., LTD.'s second U.S. plant. The $14 million Bremen, Georgia facility will make zinc die-cast lock bodies and starter switch bodies for supply to HONDA MOTOR CO., LTD.'s three North American assembly operations. Sales at the new HONDA ALL-LOCK MANUFACTURING, INC. plant are projected at $2.2 million in the first year of business and $18 million in 2003. The original Honda All-Lock factory in Selma, Alabama began production in 1988.

A decade after U-SHIN LTD. set up equally owned ORTECH CO. with ORSCHELN INTERNATIONAL CO. to make door latches, switches and other automotive parts, the MAZDA MOTOR CORP.-affiliated manufacturer of electrical parts has bought out its partner for an undisclosed price. The Kirksville, Missouri company counts as its customers Japanese transplant operations as well as GENERAL MOTORS CORP.

Positioning itself to meet the supply requirements of Japanese automotive makers operating in the United States and in Europe while minimizing its investment exposure, NIPPON PISTON RING CO., LTD. has teamed with DANA CORP. on cylinder liners. The new partners will develop, manufacture and market this part, which separates pistons from the engine block and largely controls exhaust emissions and, by extension, affects engine durability. They will use as their production base the Toledo, Ohio automotive parts manufacturer's plants on both sides of the Atlantic.

An exchange rate of ¥141=$1.00 was used in this report.

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