Japanese lead in Mexico; where next?

Automotive News reported last week that Japanese brands outsold the Detroit 3's brands in Mexico in the first half of this year.

Ouch.

General Motors is doing great in China. Ford is doing sort of OK in India. But the news from Mexico is a reminder that automakers can't focus on just a handful of developing markets to tap into future growth. Today's global competition takes place everywhere, all the time.

I remember about a decade ago, when a Japanese analyst in Tokyo told me it was "rude" of the Detroit 3 to try to sell cars in Southeast Asia because that was Japan's back yard. He didn't seem to feel the same way about Japanese automakers selling cars in Mexico or South America.

The world used to be carved up fairly neatly. Canada, Mexico and South America were the Detroit 3's territory. Africa was European makers' and Southeast Asia was Japanese brands'. (China and India opened to everyone about the same time, so this thinking doesn't apply there.)

But Japanese makers especially have eaten into the only export markets that the Detroit 3 ever took seriously -- Mexico and Latin America -- steadily.

GM, Ford and Chrysler need to work harder to defend the markets they've had. And they need to be "rude" to rivals elsewhere.

Of course, this cuts both ways.

The Brazilian market used to be dominated by Ford and Volkswagen in a joint venture, Fiat and GM. Then the Japanese automakers started to set their sights on Brazil. But the latest report I saw said the Japanese automakers' shares were being trimmed by a new entrant: Hyundai.

How rude.

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