Detroit In Japan: A Car Wreck Of A Car Strategy

The Big Three set out to conquer Japan--and got banged up badly

It seems a distant memory, but four years ago, the U.S. and Japan came to the brink of a nasty trade war over Detroit's demand for access to the Japanese market. President Clinton threatened to slap 100% tariffs on Japanese luxury cars. Detroit auto chieftains, including Ford Chairman Alex Trotman, denounced the Japanese, while Tokyo accused the Big Three of being uncompetitive. Only the last-minute intervention of then-U.S. Trade Representative Mickey Kantor kept the peace. Japan agreed to encourage its car dealers to embrace U.S. autos, and Detroit said it would dispatch a parade of products customized for the Japanese market. Clinton crowed: "This breakthrough is a major step for free trade throughout the world."

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