TOKYO -- Japanese automakers are moving to bring models they build abroad to their home market amid the weakening of the yen, a sign that these companies are steadily establishing global production systems immune to exchange rate fluctuations.
In the wake of the global financial crisis, when the yen was much stronger, Japanese automakers scrambled to transfer production overseas. The currency has since declined and is now even weaker than the 100-101 yen to the dollar that the eight passenger car manufacturers have assumed for the current fiscal year through March 31, but they are not looking to expand exports from Japan or move production back here.
In some cases, the economies of scale from building cars where they sell the most makes those vehicles more competitive than those produced domestically. So the automakers are moving to import these models to beef up their domestic lineups.
This month, Nissan Motor will bring the e-NV200 commercial electric vehicle assembled in Spain to the Japanese market.
Suzuki Motor intends to sell the SX4 S-Cross SUV in Japan as early as next year. The vehicle is produced by its Hungarian subsidiary mainly for the European market.
Mitsubishi Motors is leaning toward domestic sales of the Triton pickup truck built in Thailand.
Honda Motor plans to revive its NSX high-performance sports car as early as next year, and the vehicles will be produced at its Ohio plant in the U.S., the largest sports car market in the world. The automaker intends to import several hundred units a year for sale in Japan.
The number of vehicles that Japanese carmakers exported from Japan declined 0.6% last fiscal year. "Each automaker has taken risks to conduct capital investment abroad, so it's unlikely that the trend to manufacture locally will change as a result of exchange rates returning to earlier levels," says Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association Chairman Fumihiko Ike.
According to research company Fourin, Japanese passenger car manufacturers had combined global output capacity of 30.71 million units in 2013, up 10% from the 2010 level. But they actually produced just 25.38 million vehicles last year. The automakers aim to increase the operating rates of overseas plants by boosting exports to Japan and other markets.