The power and prestige of senior Chinese officials and their taste in cars may prove the new restrictions on imports to be a paper tiger. Previous attempts to curb government spending on expensive foreign makes have failed.
Japanese auto makers touting the shared benefits of free trade deny the home market is closed to imported vehicles. But imports’ 6.5% market share in 2011 was virtually unchanged from 15 years earlier.
“We’re doing everything possible to bring down costs, including making greater use of imported components. But without changing our model mix, we can’t make profits through exports,” Mitsubishi’s president says.
Even assuming a high exchange rate, Goldman Sachs Japan says strong growth is likely next year, with Toyota and Honda expectations high and Nissan and Daihatsu at a relative advantage with their emerging-markets strategies.
China may be the world’s largest automotive market, but heavy reliance on foreign technology and weak R&D capability among local producers makes it a mere “factory” for global car makers, one analyst says.