Japan mobile Sony Toyota

History lesson for Nokia’s Vertu in Japan

Nokia has announced that they plan to launch an MVNO with Docomo using their Vertu brand in Japan.
A quick look at this brings up many more questions than answers. Vodafone failed spectacularly in Japan just a few years ago, and without careful understanding of the Japan market, Vertu/Nokia will fail as well. Masayoshi Son was the major benefactor of the failed Vodafone Japan effort.
I think Vertu in Japan needs to understand why these efforts failed in Japan:
– Toyota’s Lexus brand
– Sony’s Qualia brand
Lexus did well in the US because the US Toyota dealership experience was so horrendous for customers that they were happy to pay more for a much better dealer experience AND the products had a premium that was not as high as the German competition but was as good as they expected of a Japanese manufacturer. Affordable luxury. In Japan, the dealer experience is much more uniform so that is not a competitive edge, and for Japanese car buyers, Lexus is a domestic brand, it does not have the cachet of a foreign brand like BMW or Audi. We all know that the Lexus RX and the Toyota Harrier are the same vehicle, the GS is a gussied up Toyota Crown, the IS is a gussied up Toyota Altezza, etc.
Sony’s Qualia effort was doomed from the start, even if the idea may have been a good one. The products were roundly derided as being poorer feature-sets for the outrageous prices that were being demanded.
Unless Vertu has a whole new line of phones designed just for the Japanese market, they’ll fail via product, as Vodafone did. And even if Vertu has a whole new line of phones for Japan, it’s incredibly poor timing to launch a premium-anything in Japan. Maybe if the target market is the top 10,000 richest people in Japan, but how valuable is that market really?
More competition in Japan’s mobile market is very welcome, but I don’t see clearly Nokia’s strategy wrt a Vertu-based MVNO in Japan. If anyone can convince me otherwise, I’m all ears.
UPDATE: on my way home yesterday I was wondering how Disney Japan is doing with their MVNO with Softbank but since the target demographic is so different from what Vertu wants to do, I don’t think there are many lessons to be learned.

Japan Toyota

Katsuaki Watanabe, President of Toyota

I used to work at Toyota, so I keep my eye on them for nostalgia’s sake, less and less so these days.

Watanabe’s recent moves to align Toyota with both Isuzu and Subaru are going to be important in the long run.

More experience with diesels will be important as well. Diesel has a horrible image in Japan whereas clean/new tech diesels are all over Europe.

Low-Key Chief Asserts Himself as a Leader at Toyota – New York Times


Toyota 2000GT

DSC00756.JPG, originally uploaded by quanza.

If I was very wealthy, I’d own one of these.

Japan Toyota

2006 J.D. Power APEAL survey

It’s been a number of years since I worked in the Auto industry (I worked at Toyota USA in IT) but I keep my eye on the industry.

Seems like the Japanese are still creating vehicles that US drivers want.

The Japanese handily dominated the 2006 APEAL results, garnering wins in 12 of the 19 segments – including a tie between the Lexus GX470 and Porsche Cayenne in the Midsize Premium MAV category.

Detroit manufacturers captured only two of 19 segments. Ford’s wildly popular Mustang was tops in the Midsize Sporty Car segment, while the automaker’s new Fusion was best Midsize Car. Significantly, Japanese makers won or tied in every single truck and crossover category, the side of the market that Detroit manufacturers have traditional dominated. On the other hand, it has been years since the Big Three were able to field truly competitive passenger cars, an area of their business Detroit makers are vowing to revitalize.

Porsche Tops APEAL Study – The Car Connection


Toyota sexual harassment charge

Having worked at Toyota in the US for 4 years, I’m disappointed but not necessarily surprised.
Japanese managers, even executives transferred to the US, forget that they are in America and not Japan.
If Ms. Kobayashi’s story is true, and it rings true for me even just from this relatively short article, it will be an expensive but important lesson for Toyota and TMS.
Sexual harassment in the workplace in Japan is a whole other story that I won’t cover here.
Toyota Official Is on Leave After Harassment Charge – New York Times