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No. 357, June 1999

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American Companies in Japan


TRANSPORTATION EQUIPMENT

Reports continue to circulate through Japanese automotive circles that an expanded dealer network is central to FORD MOTOR CO.'s strategy for getting its sales back on a growth track (see Japan-U.S. Business Report No. 355, April 1999, p. 34). According to the latest information, the number-two U.S. vehicle maker could spend as much as $49 million to boost its current 234-store presence to 300 showrooms by FY 2003. Buying up dealer points closed by Japanese competitors struggling with sagging sales is said to be a primary way that FORD SALES JAPAN LTD. — the retail channel for imported Ford vehicles as well as for Ford-badged cars built by affiliate MAZDA MOTOR CORP. — plans to expand. Ford sold just 22,000 or so cars and light trucks in Japan last year, far off its peak of roughly 88,000 vehicles in 1990, but it expects to boost the yearly figure to 60,000 in the near to medium term. Products obviously are critical to the success of FORD MOTOR CO.'s sales-expansion strategy. That makes the introduction of the completely redesigned Mustang coupe and convertible all the more important. FORD SALES JAPAN LTD. is projecting Mustang sales at 200 units a month. The sporty car, which has a manufacturer suggested retail price of $23,800 to $30,700, has a new exterior and an improved 3.8-liter, V-6 engine. Traction control and an antitheft system are standard equipment.

The first right-hand-drive Jeep Grand Cherokee equipped with a V8 engine is in CHRYSLER JAPAN SALES LTD. showrooms. DAIMLERCHRYSLER AG is counting on the more powerful 1999 sport-utility vehicle to boost sales in Japan and elsewhere in Asia. The Jeep Grand Cherokee 4.7L, which designates its 4.7-liter engine, lists for $40,600. Its mate, the remodeled Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited 4.0L, which sports a 3.95-liter, V6 engine, has a MSRP of $36,000. Chrysler Japan Sales is projecting Jeep Grand Cherokee sales at 1,800 units by December. Earlier this year, the company released the 1999 RHD versions of both the Jeep Cherokee and the Jeep Wrangler.

An exchange rate of ¥122=$1.00 was used in this report.aaaaaa

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