TOKYO - Chrysler Japan Sales Ltd. has scored a small, and surprisingly late, victory in its drive to sign up dealers in Japan.
Despite Chrysler's long relationship with Mitsubishi Motors Corp., which Chrysler helped launch in the early 1970s, no Mitsubishi-affiliated dealer in Japan sells Chrysler cars. Until now.
Saitama Mitsubishi Colt Car Sales has signed to become a 'main dealer' in Saitama Prefecture, a residential area north of Tokyo. It will open a showroom devoted exclusively to Chrysler vehicles, and act as Chrysler's local distribution head in Saitama.
In a recent interview, Ron Gardhouse, president of Asia-Pacific operations for Chrysler International, complained about 'invisible barriers that make it difficult to establish a distribution network.'
Although he was not speaking specifically about Mitsubishi, Gardhouse alluded to an often-repeated contention that Japanese carmakers discourage their dealers from taking on import franchises: 'There are a lot of entrepreneurs that are concerned that if they have to jeopardize their investments with (Japanese) OEMs, that might not bode well for them.'
Mitsubishi Managing Director Taizo Yokoyama gave a different reason why Mitsubishi dealers had not signed up earlier for a Chrysler franchise. Some Mitsubishi dealers had tried selling Chrysler products in the early 1980s, he said, when the vehicles 'were not very good.' That experience left those dealers 'very reluctant' to give Chrysler another try, he said.