Why Japan Is Continuing to Succeed in the Automotive Industry
Japan is well established in the automotive industry and due to their reputation as quality car manufacturers, Japanese cars are sold all over the world. In fact, most of the popular cars we see on the roads today come from Japanese manufacturers such as Honda, Nissan, Mazda, Mitsubuishi, and Toyota. So how did Japan become so established in the automotive industry and what are they doing to stay on top of the game now?
One of the reasons why Japan is one of the top three car-producing countries(1) in the world is that they focus on the international market more than their own. While you might think it would be easier and cheaper to trade cars domestically the global market for automobiles is so strong that, as a country with a weaker national currency, Japan took the decision to expand their automotive industry and gain global recognition.
This global reach has been a pivotal part of the Japanese automotive industry for years and its success is evident. One of Japan’s leading manufacturers, Toyota, has exceeded productivity rates of U.S. car manufacturers since the 1960s. In fact, many studies have found that Toyota has the highest levels of manufacturing efficiency(2) in the global automobile industry.
2 sloanreview.mit.edu, “Manufacturing Innovation: Lessons from the Japanese Auto Industry.”
Compared to their US counterparts, much of Japan’s growth in the automotive industry can be attributed to its use of lean manufacturing(3) rather than mass production. Unlike Ford and its mass production in the U.S., Toyota, like many Japanese car manufacturers, decided to implement lean manufacturing, meaning they were only making cars according to customer requests. This, in turn, reduced waste from overproduction.
A big reason why fuel-efficient vehicles are so popular today is because of this lean manufacturing process. Lean manufacturing, or the Toyota Production System(4) as it was named by these car manufacturing giants, was created by Toyota founder Sakichi Toyoda and has shaped the way all car manufacturers in Japan manage their production. This process allows for waste reduction in several areas of car manufacturing, including speeding up transportation of products and reducing time spent waiting for products by linking processes together. The process is now used in all kinds of industries as well as being the main manufacturing process for automotive industries in Japan.
4 rcbi.org, “Lean Manufacturing Made Toyota The Success Story It Is Today.”
Of course, no national industry reaches global success without an incredible product. There are several factors which have made Japanese cars some of the most reliable products in the industry. Parts suppliers make up a substantial element of Japan’s economy, with multiple industries providing the more than 20,000 individual parts which go into making each car. Each of these 20,000 parts is integral to the production, and from chemicals to textiles each part is of the highest quality.
One of the reasons that Japanese cars have been so popular is this focus on high quality and safety. Japanese cars are known for being reliable and well-built and this means that their car manufacturers have won the trust of their customers not just locally but internationally. With a long history in the automotive industry(5), Japan’s car manufacturers come with a trademark of trust.
As well as being made from high-quality material, Japanese cars are more affordable to purchase and maintain thanks to their fuel efficiency. These cars are more environmentally friendly, which is a selling point that has allowed Japanese car manufacturers to keep on top of the game. There has also been an increase in the production of hybrid cars in Japan(6) which run on both gasoline and electricity. These hybrid cars are quickly becoming the future of the automotive industry thanks to their efficiency and environmentally-conscious design, which may be the key to staying on top.
6 japanesecartrade.com, “Top 10 Japan Manufactured Hybrid Cars.”
With pressure on the automotive industry to move from traditional gas and diesel cars to completely electric or hybrid cars, Japanese manufacturers need to keep up with an evolving world to maintain their position as one of the top three car producers in the world. It is up to car manufacturers to adapt. One of the ways Japan is doing this is by focusing on fuel-efficient cars. This focus keeps them fresh, relevant, constantly evolving, and a big reason their cars are so popular.
Another leap forward in the automotive industry has been the introduction of self-conducted autonomous vehicles. Japan is even updating traffic laws(7) so that self-driving cars can be used on the roads, to coincide with Toyota’s and Honda’s plans to commercialize self-driving cars by 2020.
With the increasing globalization of the automotive industry, Japan is on top of the game when it comes to trading parts internationally and domestically. The added pressure on domestic suppliers to provide higher-quality products due to international competition only motivates the growth of the Japanese automotive industry. It will be interesting to see how Japanese cars evolve in the future with all that is happening within this thriving industry.