Liberated by China, Sweden’s Volvo returns to Japan, where imports boom

Volvo booth Tokyo - Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt

tmsbannerAfter a seven year forced absence, Volvo returns to the Tokyo Motor Show. American carmakers shunned the show in 2008, blaming carmageddon, but continued their boycott when business picked up again, claiming that the Japanese market is closed, and hence not worth their effort.  Back then, Volvo was owned by Ford, and had to do as told by the parent.

Now Geely-owned Volvo evokes its Swedish roots with a woodsy booth, and a Volvo V40 center stage. That car was voted 2013 Imported Car of The Year in Japan. Liberated Volvo is no longer complaining about any closed markets. Volvo’s sales in Japan are up 27 percent this year and are at their highest level since the late 1990s.

Sales of cars imported by foreign manufacturers are up nearly 16 percent for the year in Japan, while the overall market dropped 3.2 percent. Imports have reached a 10 percent share of regular vehicles. Trapped in a parallel reality, Detroit’s automakers are leaving a nearly 300,000 unit market on the table for mostly European carmakers who enjoy double-digit growth rates.