TOKYO - General Motors last week launched a new sales channel in Japan, GM AutoWorld, as part of an ambitious plan to boost its market share tenfold in the next four years.
Joining with its affiliate Isuzu Motors Ltd., owned 49 percent by GM, the U.S. automaker plans to expand the new network to 25 stores by year end and to about 100 in the next few years.
The new distribution network, with 13 stores to start, is based on certain existing Saturn Japan stores, as well as seven Isuzu dealerships.
The new network sells two Chevrolet models - the Blazer and the MSW, a rebadged Suzuki Wagon R - and three Saturn models, plus Isuzu-brand light trucks and cars. In September, the network will add the YGM-1, a compact car jointly developed by GM and Suzuki Motor Corp.
GM's luxury brands here - Cadillac, Saab and Opel - will continue to be sold through Yanase & Co., the automaker's longtime importer and distributor.
GM aims to boost its market share in Japan to about 10 percent by the end of 2004 from less than 1 percent now. The surge is not as dramatic as the numbers suggest, though, because the targeted market share will include sales by GM partners Isuzu and Subaru maker Fuji Heavy Industries, while the current figure counts only imports.
So far this year, Isuzu and Fuji Heavy, in which GM has a 20 percent stake, hold a combined 6.2 percent of the Japanese market. It was not immediately clear how GM could fully consolidate Fuji's sales into its own with only a 20 percent stake.
GM also said it wants to expand its import sales to about 100,000 a year from about 35,000.