Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Japan's Auto Parts Suppliers Assailed by US Industry

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Japan's Auto Parts Suppliers Assailed by US Industry

Article excerpt

THERE'S a new trade feud erupting between America and Japan, and this time, it's not over computer chips, rice, or beef.

This time, the complaints involve nuts and bolts - and windshields, bumpers, and hundreds of other automobile parts sold in garages and stores. But the dispute is no small matter: Trade in car parts accounted for one-fourth of the $41 billion United States trade deficit with Japan last year, and many American parts suppliers say they fear Japan could soon take over their market.

The bickering isn't new: Five years ago, Ohio congresswoman Marcy Kaptur tossed a US-built Champion spark plug on former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone's desk and asked him why it wasn't selling well in Japan.

American partsmakers still have the same gripe. And the issue has become more politicized.

US Vice President Dan Quayle, during a May visit to Tokyo, became the first White House-level official to raise the issue in Japan. And the dispute arises at a time when Japanese automakers are under fire on other matters. Last week the US International Trade Commission issued a preliminary ruling that Japanese minivans are being "dumped" (sold at artificially low prices) on the American market.

Fueling the parts dispute is damaging new evidence - much of it, ironically, provided by Japan's powerful Ministry of International Trade and Industry. Results of a study sponsored by MITI and the Commerce Department suggest Japanese suppliers have been dumping car parts in America at prices four to eight times cheaper than those in Japan.

The study showed, for example, that a muffler for a Toyota Corolla purchased as a replacement part cost $19.88 in the US, compared with $102.24 in Japan.

Also maddening, say trade specialists: Honda, America's most-beloved Japanese automaker, buys only 16 percent of the parts in its US-made vehicles from American-owned suppliers. …

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