Here’s something counterintuitive. General Motors is going to take Hummer to Japan. I’m being a bit snide here, but that strikes me as a bit like trying to sell sushi in West Texas. And I’m not talking about fine restaurants near President Bush’s ranch in Crawford. I’m talking about setting up a sushi bar in the “No Country for Old Men” parts of West Texas. Cue up Terry Bradshaw saying, “Sushi? Where I come from, we call that bait.”
American cars have never played well in Japan. Consumers there don’t respect them. Before former Toyota executive James E. Press joined Chrysler, he said in an interview that, “Many American consumers buy Japanese cars. Why would Japanese consumers prefer an American car?” In any case, Hummer general manager Martin Walsh says GM will sell only the mid-sized H3 out of one-stop dealerships that also sell Cadillacs and Saabs. The move to Japan is part of Hummer’s globalization. It’s not in 37 markets and since it has right-hand drive models, it can now sell in Japan, the U.K. and Australia. “There are still people who want to drive something that really stands out from the crowd,” Walsh says.
Let’s just say that this really will stand out in Japan. It’s tough enough navigating even a mid-sized suv through the packed streets of Manhattan let alone the tight and congested streets of Tokyo. Let’s not forget that here in the U.S., where gas is cheap, off-roading is more popular and streets are wider, H3 sales are off 20%. Hummer will be big in Japan all right. I’m wagering it will be too big.