WASHINGTON (Kyodo) The widening gap in performance in the United States between Japanese and U.S. automakers is unlikely to cause the kind of trade friction seen in the 1980s and 1990s, a Toyota Motor North America Inc. executive said in a recent interview.
Josephine Cooper, group vice president in charge of government and industry affairs, cited Japanese automakers’ contributions to the U.S. economy, including investment in new plants and creation of jobs, contrasting it with U.S. automakers’ increasing outsourcing abroad.
“So for all these reasons, I think that it would be a stretch of my imagination to think that the trade friction we experienced in the early ’90s would happen again today,” Cooper said.
In the United States, Japanese automakers are boosting sales and market share, while U.S. giant General Motors Corp. is in decine, raising concerns about plant shutdowns.
The situation increasingly resembles the time when Japan and the U.S. were on the verge of a trade war due to automobile-related friction in the 1980s and 1990s.
Cooper said: “Toyota is much more an accepted part of the American culture now than we were 10 years ago, when the trade friction was at its height.
“With Toyota’s investment in the United States, with our number of plants, our growing of plants, our number of employees, our economic contribution, the number of suppliers, I would think that would be a great obstacle for trade friction to occur.”
“The same goes for” Nissan Motor Co. and other Japanese automakers that are also increasing jobs and investments in the U.S., she added.
In contrast, the Big Three U.S. automakers are increasingly relying on outsourcing of production, including importing parts from China and vehicles from Canada, Cooper said.
“They are locating things offshore. Toyota is bringing new plants here and expanding new plants to be larger plants here,” Cooper said. “So that really sets us apart.”
According to Cooper, Toyota has eight manufacturing plants in the United States, employs close to 32,000 employees and is responsible for more than 200,000 jobs when combined with its dealers and parts suppliers.
“More than 60 percent of the vehicles that we sell in the United States are manufactured here,” she added.
Cooper said Toyota is also set to make a full-fledged inroad into the pickup truck market, which has been the largest source of revenue for U.S. automakers.
But she stressed that Toyota’s full-size pickups will be produced at a new plant in Texas, where demand for pickups is especially strong in the United States.
Cooper said, “It is a part of the market that Toyota has not had a vehicle to compete in, and I think it will be an important step for Toyota.”
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