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JAPANESE PRICE INCREASE AVERAGES $441 PER CAR, SAYS AUTOMOTIVE NEWS

 JAPANESE PRICE INCREASE AVERAGES $441 PER CAR, SAYS AUTOMOTIVE NEWS
 DETROIT, April 6 /PRNewswire/ -- The recent price increases on Japanese cars sold in the United States average $441, or 2.8 percent, Automotive News reports in its April 6 edition.
 Ten of the 12 makes have raised prices since March 1, with the boosts ranging from $100 for American Suzuki Motor Corp. to $1,790 for Lexus Division of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. American Isuzu Motors Inc. and Daihatsu America Inc. abstained from the March round of increases.
 Shortly after President Bush and the chairmen of the Big Three automakers visited Japan in January, Automotive News reported that the presidents of Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co. Ltd., Japan's two biggest auto companies, were considering hiking prices in the United States. The move was viewed as an effort to ease trade friction between the two nations as well as a way to shore up the Japanese firms' flagging -- or nonexistent -- profits in this country.
 The trade angle was that higher prices on Japanese cars might make them a bit less attractive to American buyers and give the Big Three a better shot at the market.
 It is too early to assess the effect of higher prices on the sales of Japanese cars. Automotive News notes that the new stickers took effect at varying times during the month, and March sales do not provide a definitive reading. Most dealers were selling pre-increase cars last month.
 So far, the Big Three have not raised their own prices and thrown away any marketing edge the Japanese hikes may give them. Automotive News reports that since March 1, Saturn has posted the only Big Three increase. It averaged about $175, but it raised the average price of a Big Three car only $2.49 on a sales-weighted basis.
 In raising prices, most of the Japanese importers blamed the strengthening of the yen against the dollar. Richard Recchia, Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America executive vice president, was the only leader to acknowledge publicly the political aspect.
 In late February, he told the International Motor Press Association, "If Mitsubishi raises prices, it will be a combination of everything, politics included. It would be naive to think that politics didn't have some part in it."
 Tying a price increase to the change in the yen-dollar relationship is a two-edged sword. At the beginning of the 1992 model year last Oct. 1, shortly after the annual price boost, the yen was trading at 133.20 to the dollar. By early February, when the Japanese were mulling their price hikes, it was 126.25. The gain of 5.5 percent was more than the recent Japanese price increases.
 But last Thursday, the yen was listed at 133.72 to the dollar, a bit lower than on Oct. 1. None of the Japanese importers have rescinded or trimmed their March price increases.
 Following are the March price increases on Japanese cars, as reported by the importers or calculated by Automotive News. All figures are sales-weighted.
 Average Percent of
 Amount Increase
 Lexus $1,790 5.0
 Infiniti $1,308 4.2
 Mazda $732 5.1
 Toyota $432 3.2
 Nissan $432 3.0
 Acura $415 1.8
 Mitsubishi $357 2.0
 Subaru $326 2.1
 Honda $252 1.7
 Suzuki $100 1.2
 Isuzu 0 0
 Daihatsu 0 0
 Average $441 2.8
 Automotive News is published each Monday in Detroit by Crain Communications Inc., which publishes 25 business and consumer magazines and newspapers.
 -0- 4/6/92
 /CONTACT: Jack Teahen of Automotive News, 313-446-0362/ CO: Automotive News ST: Michigan IN: AUT PUB SU:


JG-SM -- DE003 -- 5218 04/06/92 09:07 EDT
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