TOKYO -- Yes, it has been a triumphant decade in the United States for most Japanese automakers, but there are two glaring exceptions.
Japanese share has shot up from 26 percent in 2000 to 40 percent this year. But Mitsubishi's market penetration dipped sharply in that period, and Suzuki has lost the momentum it had at mid-decade. To get back on track, the two laggards are adjusting their product lineups -- and taking different approaches.
Even as U.S. sales begin to stabilize, Mitsubishi and Suzuki keep tumbling. Each has underperformed a terrible market this year.
Mitsubishi is down 46 percent in 2009. Its U.S. market share has fallen from a high of 2.0 percent in 2002 to 0.5 percent so far this year.
Suzuki sales were off 55 percent through November, its share slipping to 0.4 percent from 0.7 percent for the first 11 months of 2008 .
Both are heading for a third year of operating losses in North America. Indeed, the success of new products arriving in the next 12 months may determine whether the two brands have a future in this country.
The haunting precedent is Isuzu, which let its U.S. lineup and market share wither until it became, in January 2009, the first big Japanese brand to quit the United States.
But for the time being, Mitsubishi and Suzuki still have deep roots in this country.