Buyers go missing as Trump seeks more U.S. cars in Japan

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A custom Mercedes-Benz SL600 decorated with Swarovski crystals can be seen at the Tokyo Auto Salon in Chiba, Japan, in January. Photo credit: BLOOMBERG

In his attempt to improve the access of American cars to Japan, President Donald Trump can overlook the main obstacle: Japanese consumers do not want them.

Of the 3.2 million vehicles sold in Japan this year, only 0.3 percent were US brands, according to data from auto industry associations in Japan. Japanese brands, on the other hand, have a market share of about 40 percent in the US

Trump said on Wednesday that he had reached an agreement with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to open trade negotiations between the two nations. The president had threatened a 25 percent rate on cars, to discourage imports and encourage more production and jobs in America. Trump, who also wants better access to American cars in Japan, agreed with Abe that penalties on car exports were not applied during the talks.

While the United States currently has a 2.5 percent import tariff on passenger cars and 25 percent on trucks, Japan has canceled its latest car import charges almost four decades ago. Japan has long argued that the low presence of American cars has nothing to do with tariffs: Japanese consumers generally experience American cars as bulky and inefficient – minicars and other locally made fuel-saving models dominate car sales. of the country.

Only about 7 percent of total car sales in Japan are imports, but there are many foreign brands. German manufacturers claimed the top five importer positions – a point that Japan uses to prove that its consumers are not shunning all foreign brands. Daimler AG & # 39; s Mercedes-Benz sold 42,000 units this year until August, while BMW sold 30,500 units.

The Jeep from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV is the number 1 American brand in Japan, with more than 7,000 units in the first eight months of this year, on top of other American brands together. Ford Motor Co. said in 2016 that it retreated from Japan and called the country the most closed developed car market in the world.