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No. 350, November 1998

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American Companies in Japan


TRANSPORTATION EQUIPMENT

The U.S.-designed, Marysville, Ohio-built 1999 Acura 2.5TL and Acura 3.2TL sedans are on sale at selected HONDA MOTOR CO., LTD. dealerships as the Inspire and the Saber, respectively. The five-cylinder Inspire has a manufacturer suggested retail price of $21,800 and up, while the MSRP starts at $26,700 for the V-6 Saber. Both models have a North American parts content of 98 percent. Honda, which has seen Japan-bound exports of its U.S.-assembled vehicles plummet in large part because of strong American demand, hopes to ship roughly 30,000 Acura TLs a year back home.

Right-hand drive and other Japan-tailored changes have come to the Chevrolet Blazer sport-utility vehicle. GENERAL MOTORS CORP. and exclusive distributor YANASE & CO., LTD. raised the prices on the 1999 Blazer by 8.9 percent on average. The base LS model has a MSRP of $27,100, while the high-end model lists for $33,000.

JOHNSON CONTROLS, INC., which claims the title of the top U.S. supplier of seating and interior systems to assembly plants operated by Japanese automotive makers in the United States and at home, has expanded its local design, engineering and marketing capabilities for interior products. The Plymouth, Michigan company now has a new headquarters building and technical center in Yokohama as well as a regional business office near Toyota City in Aichi prefecture. The new infrastructure, Johnson Controls says, will help it support its Japan-based joint venture partners, develop innovative seating as well as interior products, and strengthen its R&D and prototyping capabilities. Among the interior products that JCI already supplies to car and truck factories in Japan are overhead consoles, sun visors, HomeLink Universal Transceivers, PathPoint compasses and map lamps.

With the North American manufacturing operations of Japanese automotive suppliers now making their own engineering and purchasing decisions, CHERRY CORP. has decided to close its Tokyo automotive sales and engineering subsidiary. The Waukegan, Illinois company opened the office in 1993 to help it gain business from transplants in the United States and Canada. Cherry makes electrical switches, sensors, electronic keyboards and controls, and semiconductors for the automotive, computer, consumer and commercial markets. It will continue to be represented in Japan through HIROSE CHERRY PRECISION CO., LTD., an equally owned venture with HIROSE ELECTRIC CO., LTD. that has an engineering center in Yokohama.

San Francisco's BEI TECHNOLOGIES, INC. has made AKEBONO BRAKE INDUSTRY CO., LTD. the exclusive distributor in Japan and several Southeast Asian countries of its proprietary quartz GyroChip sensors for automotive and transportation applications. The big Japanese manufacturer of brake system components and friction materials has diversified into automotive sensors. It currently makes micromachined linear accelerometers. Akebono Brake now will sell BEI's micromachined angular-rate GyroChip sensors, which are described as an essential part of automotive makers' new antispinout safety systems.

The sales battle between HARLEY-DAVIDSON MOTOR CO. and HONDA MOTOR CO., LTD. in the market for touring motorcycles is now a transpacific fight with Honda's introduction of its Marysville, Ohio-built 1999 Valkyrie Tourer (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 349, October 1998, p. 29). The cruiser, adapted for the Japanese market, has a liquid-cooled 1,520-cc six-cylinder engine. Honda is projecting sales of 600 Valkyrie Tourers in the current model year. They range in price from $12,300 to $13,600.

An exchange rate of ¥121=$1.00 was used in this report.
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