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David Fickling

Made in Japan Ain't What It Was

Detroit once underestimated its Asian rivals. Lexus is now doing the same to China.

There was a time when U.S. manufacturers looked down on their Japanese rivals as purveyors of cheap, low-quality knockoffs. That 1960s conventional wisdom is taught these days in business schools as one of history's most glaring examples of corporate hubris. It's odd to see it catching on in Japan, of all places.

Lexus International Executive Vice President Takashi Yamamoto probably dodged a bullet by not building a car plant in China's grossly oversupplied market in recent years. Still, a factory that could escape import tariffs in the world's biggest auto market seems like a good idea at some point. Not so, according to Yamamoto: The first Lexus production line could be "several decades" away.