General Motors Corp. may extend its GM AutoWorld dealer network to Japan as part of moves to promote its brand name and increase its market share in the region.
“We are considering many options as a way to boost our sales here,” said GM Japan Executive Vice President Yoshikazu Nakashima. “We have little penetration in the Japanese market and we’d like to make our presence bigger.”
GM is aiming to increase its market share in the Asia-Pacific region to 10 percent, or 240,000 vehicles a year, by 2004. That target includes vehicles made by GM affiliates Isuzu Motors Co., Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. and Suzuki Motors Corp.
GM sells Chevrolet, Cadillac, Opel, Saab, Saturn and Pontiac vehicles through 217 outlets in Japan, of which 195 are operated by Yanase & Co., a privately held auto importer. GM also sells through 22 Saturn dealers.
GM also plans to try to strengthen its Chevrolet brand in Asia, and expects its “Asian Car,” YGM-1, a four-wheel drive Chevrolet compact, to improve the brand’s sales. YGM-1, a multipurpose hatchback with 1.3-liter and 1.5-liter engines developed by GM and Suzuki Motor Corp., will be introduced to the market in 2001.
A GM AutoWorld network in Japan would add to rather than compete directly with Yanase, Nakashima said. He said GM must cooperate with the dealer, which has imported GM vehicles for more than eight decades. Yanase also sells DaimlerChrysler AG’s Mercedes-Benz and may sell Audi‘s luxury models.
“Yanase is our biggest partner and we want to continue our long historical relationship with them,” he said.
GM Japan set up a marketing unit on April 1 to take over wholesale import rights for Opel and Chevrolet models from Yanase, while Yanase retains retail marketing rights for those brands.
Nakashima said the automaker is still working on its plans to boost sales in Japan, though he didn’t elaborate.
Likely partners to help GM build a dealership network are Isuzu Motors Ltd., Suzuki Motor Corp. and Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. That’s because GM owns 49 percent of Isuzu, 21 percent of Fuji Heavy, and 10 percent of Suzuki, giving it a stake in every segment of the Japanese auto industry, from minivehicles to small and midsize passenger cars and trucks.
GM shares fell 1 3/16, 2 percent, to 58 1/16 on Friday in New York.