Archive for Friday, January 10, 1992


January 10, 1992


Local car dealers don't expect much from the new trade agreement on autos hammered out during President Bush's trade mission to Japan.

"It's a step in the right direction, but it's like pouring a cup of water into the Kansas River it's not going to make a whole lot of difference," said Roger Bernhardt, general manager of Ellena Buick Jeep Eagle, 2112 W. 29th.

Japan promised to buy 20,000 more U.S. cars per year, double purchases of U.S. auto parts, relax car inspection standards and boost sales of other goods.

Japan exports some 1.75 million vehicles a year to the United States, accounting for three-quarters of Japan's $41 billion trade surplus with the United States. Of the 35,000 U.S. vehicles Japan imports a year, 20,000 are built by Japanese factories in the United States.

Importing 20,000 more U.S.-made cars a year, will make little difference in the overall trade imbalance, local dealers said.

"I THINK they threw us a crumb, personally," Bernhardt said.

Tom Oakson, sales manager for Ellena Honda, 2957 Four Wheel Dr., said the agreements reached by U.S.-Japanese trade negotiators would have little impact on import dealers.

"I think it will affect domestic cars more than the imports," he said.

Dale Willey, owner of Dale Willey Pontiac-Cadillac, 2840 Iowa, said the purchase of 20,000 cars was a step in the right direction, but "as far as it making any significant difference, I don't think 20,000 cars is significant."

"I haven't seen the trade magazines of what it really means, so I don't know what it will do for us," said LeRoy Poage, general manager of Sonny Hill Motors, 3400 Iowa., a Chevrolet and Geo dealership.

However, Bernhardt said that even a small increase in Japanese purchases of U.S. cars could start a trend.

"I think you'll find that it will go up," he said of foreign purchases of U.S. cars.

"At one time, the American car was dull. But since 1985 they've been making a better product," he said. "The dependability is there; the workmanship is there."

STILL, HE SAID, the imbalance in the number of U.S. imports vs. exports is not likely to change soon.

"If we're taking 1.8 million, or whatever, from there, we've got a long way to go before we can balance it out," he said.

John Smith, owner of John Smith Toyota, 2300 W. 29th, also said the trade agreements could start a trend, but said nothing will change overnight.

"I don't think 20,000 cars will cut it," he said.

Willey said it may take a while to see if Japan will buy more American cars.

"It just depends on whether the Japanese like our products better than their own," he said.

However, dealers said one problem that hurts sales of U.S. cars in Japan is that many U.S. cars simply are too large for Tokyo or other areas of the densely populated country.

Other local dealers contacted today didn't want to comment on the trade agreements, saying they didn't know enough about the details to assess the impact.

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