TOKYO -- General Motors is introducing two high-performance V-Series Cadillac nameplates in Japan that outspoken presidential hopeful Donald Trump famously blasted as closed to Detroit automakers.
GM will take orders for the Cadillac ATS-V and CTS-V sport sedans in Japan today through Aug. 23. Deliveries of the 3.6-liter, twin-turbo V6 ATS-V and 6.2-liter, supercharged V-8 CTS-V will be made in the first quarter of next year, the company said.
The debut, partially framed in all-American marketing that focuses on the can-do optimistic spirit of the U.S. and Cadillac’s history of technological innovation such as the automatic starter motor, aims to boost the luxury brand’s profile in a market dominated by German rivals.
It’s a sign that American brands, while still margin players in Japan, haven’t written the country off. Trump famously bashed Japan in his campaign kick-off speech last month.
“When did we beat Japan at anything?” he asked. “They send their cars over by the millions, and what do we do? When was the last time you saw a Chevrolet in Tokyo? It doesn’t exist.”
Trump’s conclusion: “They beat us all the time.”
To be sure, GM’s sales -- and those of its Detroit counterparts -- are paltry in Japan.
Chevrolet sales slumped 30 percent to just 453 vehicles in the first six months of the year. Cadillac deliveries fell 11 percent to 441 vehicles. Chevrolet has 0.27 percent of the market here.
Yet, America’s biggest carmaker keeps at it. The Corvette and Camaro sports cars are two Chevrolet nameplates it sells here, as are the Captiva compact crossover and Sonic compact car.
On tap from Cadillac are the ATS and CTS sedans, the SRX crossover and Escalade SUV.
Still, the Detroit carmaker’s ambitions are measured. It hopes the high-margin V-Series additions will account for up to 30 percent of ATS and CTS volumes in Japan.
But officials demurred on giving a sales target.
Trump’s comments about non-existent Chevrolets were only part of his hyperbole. Japan may export cars to the U.S. by the millions, as he said. But just barely. Last year, Americans bought 1.66 million made-in-Japan vehicles, according to the Japan Automobile Importers Association, and that count was down 1.4 percent from the year before.
By contrast, Americans bought 4.517 million vehicles manufactured by Japanese automakers in North America in 2014.
And overall, U.S. consumers purchased 13.17 million vehicles manufactured by all automakers in North America last year.