TOKYO - General Motors has applied to become the first foreign member of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association, the Japanese trade group disclosed last week.
Membership would give GM easier access to information such as Japan's taxation and environmental protection policies.
JAMA discusses such matters with the government, especially during the rule-writing and law-writing stage.
Analysts say the bid reflects GM's growing presence in Japan. It owns stakes in Suzuki Motor Corp., Isuzu Motors Ltd. and Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., the maker of Subaru.
'GM may want to watch its affiliates closely because the Japanese market has become more important for the company than before,' said Takeshi Irisawa, an analyst at Marusan Securities Co.
GM, which is struggling in the slowing U.S. market, plans to boost its share of the Japanese market to 10 percent, including sales from the GM affiliates, by 2004. Its current share is 1 percent, which is based only on its imports.
Whether GM can join the Japanese association, which is made up of 13 Japanese automakers and motorcycle manufacturers, is doubtful. The group heretofore has limited membership to companies that manufacture vehicles in Japan.
JAMA said it would decide whether to approve GM's membership at a board meeting as early as March.
'GM has poured tons of billions of dollars into Japan to become a major player,' said Takaki Nakanishi, an analyst at Merrill Lynch Japan Inc.
'I think it's logical for GM to join JAMA. The fact is, half of the Japanese market is now controlled by foreign companies.'
GM's bid to join the Japanese trade group is not without some irony.
In 1992, GM with Ford Motor Co. and the former Chrysler Corp. created the American Automobile Manufacturers Association as a means of excluding Honda Motor Co. specifically, and all foreign automakers in general, from membership.
The Big 3-only group was phased out in 1999 and was succeeded by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a multinational group open to all. Honda has refused to join.