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No. 355, April 1999

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American Companies in Japan


As part of a multifaceted strategy to pump life into its slumping Japanese sales, FORD MOTOR CO. is buying out MAZDA MOTOR CORP.'s 45.1 percent share in FORD SALES JAPAN LTD. That company is the primary retail channel for imported Ford vehicles as well as Ford-badged cars developed and built by Mazda. With the purchase, FORD MOTOR CO. (JAPAN) LTD., which is in charge of imports, distribution and predelivery inspection, will own 90.2 percent of the sales unit. It plans to make Ford Sales a wholly owned subsidiary by acquiring the shares now owned by nine other companies. The U.S. automotive maker bought into the predecessor of Ford Sales in 1989. Ford and Mazda have each had a 45.1 percent stake in the dealer network since January 1993. Buying out Mazda's share reportedly will cost Ford more than $83.3 million, but in one sense, the payment just represents a transfer since the American company owns one-third of Mazda. Sales of Ford nameplates in Japan, most of which are built locally, tumbled to only 22,000 or so last year from a peak of 88,000 vehicles in 1990.

In another effort to turn around sales, FORD SALES JAPAN LTD. is offering round-the-clock emergency road service to buyers of its vehicles. The help is free to customers for the first three years after their purchase. .....FORD SALES JAPAN LTD. also has in its showrooms three versions of the redesigned right-hand-drive Explorer sport-utility vehicle. The two-door and four-door models, which include the Eddie Bauer edition, include such improvements as side-impact airbags. Ford Sales hopes to sell 2,600 Explorers over the next year.

GENERAL MOTORS CORP. and its importer/distributor/retailer, YANASE & CO., LTD., plan to cooperate more closely on marketing. Better information exchange is a primary goal. Yanase sells not only Cadillac and Chevrolet vehicles but also cars made by GM affiliates ADAM OPEL AG and SAAB AUTOMOBILE AB. It is projecting sales of 44,140 GM vehicles in the year through September 30, up 18 percent from the October 1997-September 1998 period.

An exchange rate of ¥120=$1.00 was used in this report.aaaaaa

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