TOKYO - Robert Bowen, newly installed as president of Chrysler Japan Sales Ltd., has his work cut out for him.
'Until we increase the number of showrooms, we simply will not achieve the volume of sales we think is possible in this country,' he said last week.
The company sold 16,170 units in Japan last year, up from 14,500 units in 1995.
Bowen, 43, a finance executive with no prior overseas experience, said he plans to explore opportunities with Japanese car dealers and retailers from other backgrounds as he builds Chrysler's distribution network here.
Chrysler has about 120 showrooms in Japan, far below the 500 Chrysler has said it wants. In addition, Jeep products are sold through Honda showrooms.
Of the 120 Chrysler stores, 10 are owned by Chrysler Japan Sales. That makes Japan the only place in the world where Chrysler is in the retail business, said Ronald Gardhouse, president of Asia-Pacific for Chrysler International.
Bowen said he was satisfied with the Japan unit's current lineup: right-hand-drive versions of the Jeep Cherokee, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Jeep Wrangler, Chrysler Neon and Chrysler Voyager, plus the left-hand-drive Stratus and Vision.
Even so, Gardhouse said Chrysler plans to move other car lines into right-hand drive.