Sayonara: Ford Will Withdraw from Japan by the End of 2016, Indonesia to Follow

Ford Fiesta 1 photo
Photo: Ford
Japan witnessed a boom in interest from European car manufacturers looking to expand into one of the biggest markets in the region. Renault, Volkswagen, Mercedes and Audi all tried to attract customers with gimmicks like special editions dedicated to Mount Fuji and bathhouses. However, a saturated market is often not the best place to start a business.
Ford found that out the hard way and on January 26 announced that it was officially withdrawing from the Japanse car market by the end of the year. We don't quite understand if they need to pull out by December or by March, which is when the 2016 fiscal year ends. But the general tone seems to be “the sooner the better.”

Japan seems to be a feature-dense, comfort-oriented market. That's why the vast majority of European automakers offer only one or two engines per model with standard automatic gearboxes.

So by the end of 2016, you won't be able to buy a new Ford in Japan, but should you even care? The American brand's current lineup in the land of the Civic consists of the Fiesta, Focus, Mustang, Ecosport, Kuga and Explorer. Of these, only the smaller hatchbacks have witnessed reasonable demand.

After Reuters was handed an internal email sent by Ford Asia-Pacific President Dave Schoch to all employees last week, the company needed to come clean and make the following announcement: “Japan is the most closed, developed auto economy in the world, with all imported brands accounting for less than 6% of Japan’s annual new car market.”

While that is mostly true (if you exclude kei cars, the number is 10%), demand for import cars has been growing. In addition, China is much worse, with only 4% of the total cars sold there coming from overseas. That doesn't stop Mercedes from bringing its exotic and overtaxed AMGs.

Japan is very competitive, being home to some of the biggest names in the business, such as Toyota, Nissan and Honda. But over 300,000 cars were imported into the country in 2015, most of which came from Europe. Clearly, things are changing and a little attention to detail counts for something. Only a few years ago, Ford was still importing cars from America to Britain and Japan with the steering wheel on the wrong side.
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About the author: Mihnea Radu
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Mihnea's favorite cars have already been built, the so-called modern classics from the '80s and '90s. He also loves local car culture from all over the world, so don't be surprised to see him getting excited about weird Japanese imports, low-rider VWs out of Germany, replicas from Russia or LS swaps down in Florida.
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