TOKYO -- Japan's powerful Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is pressuring Japanese carmakers to lighten up on their pricing demands to suppliers.
The pressure - which appears to have acceptance among automakers - flies in the face of decades of Japanese industry cost-cutting practices.
It also comes at an awkward moment for the industry. Japanese auto parts companies are at the center of an unprecedented international crackdown on price fixing, in which companies are pleading guilty to colluding to maintain high prices.
The ongoing investigations have netted record criminal fines, jail time for executives and sweeping civil suits from American auto dealers and customers seeking payback for being overcharged.
Japan’s policy direction came to light during a summit meeting last month between METI Minister Hiroshige Seko and the heads of Japan’s big automakers. The officials gathered at the capital city’s glitzy Palace Hotel and posed for photos before locking horns behind closed doors.
The ministry asked automakers to implement a voluntary action plan to ensure suppliers got “fair pricing,” and automakers yielded.
The government’s goal: It wants more money trickling down from profit-plump carmakers to parts makers to help jumpstart Japan’s flailing economic recovery.