As Japanese car makers continue to increase their share of the US car market, the latest strategy is simply to increase the power of their vehicles – and it seems to be working.

As competition increases in the US car market, the domestic manufacturers – General Motors, Ford and DaimlerChrysler – continue to feel the heat, with their Japanese competitors steadily gaining market share. The latest development area to be targeted is that of horsepower (hp).

In the pick-up market, Nissan has launched its Titan model. With more than 300 hp, the new Japanese model eclipses comparable US models from Ford and DaimlerChrysler. Similarly in the minivan division, Toyota‘s Sienna once again out-muscles Ford and DaimlerChrysler.

Honda’s offering tops the minivan power league. The Honda Odyssey has jumped into second place in the US minivan sales charts, just behind DaimlerChrysler. In 2002, US minivan sales fell 4% from 1.185 million to 1.134 million and the Odyssey was the only minivan to see increased sales in this period.

Whilst already searching for a seventh assembly plant site in the US, Toyota is expected to announce the construction of its sixth North American assembly plant which will assemble full-sized pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles.

The big three, General Motors, Ford and DaimlerChrysler, are set to respond to this increasing threat with up to 15 new models being produced each year over the next few years.

Japanese cars have traditionally been more akin to those offered in Europe than the US – generally compact, technologically advanced, with low engine emissions. In the US market, however, increased road space and low fuel costs lead US drivers to opt for large, powerful cars. Japanese manufacturers are now responding to this demand.

For the moment at least, the Japanese ascent seems unstoppable.

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