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Bombastic billionaire and new GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump painted the United States as an international embarrassment these days, losing on everything from jobs to car sales to other countries.
"When did we beat Japan at anything?" Trump said in announcing his candidacy June 16, 2015. "They send their cars over by the millions, and what do we do? When was the last time you saw a Chevrolet in Tokyo? It doesn't exist, folks. They beat us all the time."
We couldn’t travel to Tokyo for this fact-check, but we did hear from Chevy and other sources to shed light on whether it’s really true that Chevy "doesn’t exist" in Tokyo.
Literally, it’s not true. Chevy sells cars in Japan in four models: Sonic, Captiva, Camaro and Corvette. (Here's a screenshot of www.ChevroletJapan.com):
But Trump, in what we might describe as his Trumped-up speaking style, has a point in that Chevy’s Japanese sales are a big struggle story.
In 2014, Chevrolet sold 597 cars in Japan. No, we are not forgetting any zeroes at the end of that figure.
"To be sure, if you visit Tokyo, chances are you won’t see a single American brand car during your entire stay," said Hans Greimel, the Asia editor of Automotive News who has documented GM’s troubles in Japan. "They are incredibly rare here because their reputation is bad, and their sales are so low."
Still, GM-owned Chevys and Cadillacs, plus Fords and Jeeps, are all actively sold, Greimel said. Import sales data show Chevrolet sold 367 vehicles in the first five months of 2015. Cadillac sold 358, Ford sold almost 2,000, and Jeep sold 2,756.
Japanese automakers — Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Suzuki, Mazda, Daihatsu, Subaru, Mitsubishi — accounted for 92 percent of the 5.45 million vehicles sold in Japan in 2014, according to financial research group IHS Automotive.
One issue: In Japan, like in the United Kingdom, motorists drive on the left side of the road with the steering wheel on the right side. GM sells two Chevy cars with right-hand drive in Japan, Greimel reported, but not in Cadillac.
GM spokesman Jim Cain calls GM’s strategy in Asia "a question of priorities." The Japanese market is tough for non-domestic manufacturers to crack.
"We’re concentrating on markets and segments where we can be a successful and profitable growing enterprise," Cain said, "and the reality is that the barriers to entry in Japan are very high for foreign automakers."
GM is more aggressive in China, Singapore and South Korea. In 2014, Chevrolet sold 700,000 cars in China, according to its 2014 global sales report.
A spokesperson for Trump did not return our email.
Trump said Chevrolet cars in Tokyo don’t exist.
Literally, that’s not true. Chevy sells cars in Japan.
However, Chevy sales are more like a trickle compared to the flood of Japanese brands in the market. A journalist who covers the auto industry in Japan told us visitors would not likely see a Chevy during their stay in Japan.
Trump has a point here, but he should have used different words to make it. We rate his claim Mostly False.
Interview with Afaf Farah, Chrevolet spokeswoman, June 16, 2015
Interview with Michelle Culver, IHS Automotive spokeswoman, June 16, 2015
Interview with Jim Cain, GM spokesman, June 16, 2015
Interview with Trevor Kincaid, U.S. Office of Trade Representative, June 16, 2015
Interview with Hans Greimel, Asia editor, Automotive News, June 16, 2015
Automotive News, "Why GM struggles in Japan," June 16, 2015
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