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Free trade deal announced

Japan and the European Union, EU have concluded negotiations on a giant free trade deal.

Shinzo Abe said Japan and the EU will join hands and build an economic zone based on free and fair rules.

The deal, which the EU has called its biggest ever, must be signed and ratified on both sides. The broad outlines of the deal were agreed to in July. Once completed, it will forge an economic zone of 600 million people worth 30 percent of global GDP.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said earlier that the agreement, which was four years in the making, had “strategic importance” beyond its economic value.

“It sends a clear signal to the world that the EU and Japan are committed to keeping the world economy working on the basis of free, open and fair markets with clear and transparent rules fully respecting and enhancing our values, fighting the temptation of protectionism,” the pair said in a statement released in Brussels.

Through the deal, the EU hopes to get better access to one of the world’s richest markets, while Japan hopes to jump-start an economy that has struggled to find solid growth for more than a decade.

This will include opening up the EU market to Japanese cars and auto parts.

The two sides were aiming to finalise the specifics in the hope of signing the deal next summer and putting it into effect in 2019.

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Kobe Steel plant loses last quality badge

The plant at the centre of the scandal has lost its ISO 9001 quality certification from the International Standards Organization (ISO)

The Kobe Steel plant at the centre of a data-falsification scandal that has shaken supply chains around the world has been stripped of all its industrial quality certifications, the Japanese government said on Wednesday.

The government sanctioned seal on insulated copper tubing from Kobe’s Hatano plant was also revoked after an investigation by a certification firm into its quality mechanisms, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said in a statement.

The plant southwest of Tokyo has also lost its ISO 9001 quality certification from the International Standards Organization (ISO), Japan Quality Assurance Organization said.

Earlier, the plant was stripped of its Japan Industrial Standards (JIS) seal for seamless copper pipe products used for air conditioning and refrigerators, as a consequence of the scandal.

JIS-certified products cover about 40 per cent of Hatano’s sales by weight, Kobe Steel said. Copper products made up about 7 per cent of the company’s total sales in the year to March 2017.

“We aim to regain the JIS certification and recover trust from our customers as soon as possible by implementing measures to prevent future misconduct,” Kobe Steel said in a statement.

Industry experts said customers may switch suppliers or pick Kobe’s competitors for future orders.

Three other Kobe Steel copper and aluminium plants tangled up in the data cheating had their ISO 9001 quality certifications suspended earlier this month for up to six months.

Kobe Steel is Japan’s third-largest steelmaker, which supplies producers of cars, planes, trains and other products across the world, said last month that about 500 of its customers had received products with falsified specifications.

Furthermore, Kobe Steel has an extensive role in global supply chains. It produces engine valve springs found in half the world’s cars, according to its website.

Kobe shares have dropped nearly a quarter since news of the data interfering in early October.

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Our man at Tokyo show

Tokyo Motor Show 2017 was a spectacle that needs to be seen to be believed. I’m pleased I had the opportunity to attend on the media-only days as, I understand, the public days are crazy, writes Malcolm Yorston.

(more…)

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Associations’ proud pasts

Japanese cars waiting exportation

The Motor Industry Association (MIA) and Imported Motor Vehicle Industry Association (VIA) have an important and colourful past. Autofile Online takes a look.

The VIA was formed in 1989 by dealers for dealers. It is a business association, and helps members manage and develop their businesses by providing support and advice.

Nowadays, the VIA represents a wider group involved in importing used vehicles into New Zealand. Its members include Kiwi wholesalers and retailers, customs agents, transport companies, shipping companies, compliance shops, and Japanese, UK and Singaporean vehicle exporters.  

The VIA basically kick-started the used-vehicle import industry in New Zealand. It developed seatbelt anchorage systems for used Japanese vehicles, developed testing and certification procedures, established VINZ to provide competitive inspection services and saved dealers more than $135 million by negotiating the removal of tariffs.

It also saved importers $19m by taking the Customs Department to the Court of Appeal, forced the Parliamentary Regulations Review Committee to review the Minister of Transport’s frontal-impact regulations, resists the introduction of unreasonable legislation and rules, and continually lobbies government departments on behalf of the trade.

The MIA represents importers and distributors of new cars, trucks and motorbikes. It was set up to provide a unified voice and drive progress on issues that concern the sector – such as vehicle safety, emissions, fuel economy, consumer standards, industry training and codes of practice. It is made up of some 41 members covering 78 marques over three vehicle classes – light automotive, heavy automotive and motorcycles.

The association was formed in 1996, bringing together AMIDNZ, the new vehicle importers’ association, with the Motor Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association for assemblers of completely knocked down (CKD) vehicles. In January 2007, the MIA merged with the Motorcycle Distributors’ Association.

The MIA is involved in a wide range of industry issues. It operates several committees that deal with sector specific interests, such as vehicle safety and design, heavy vehicles and vehicle registration.

Distributors supply new vehicles that meet transport rules. When developing new rules, the MIA advocates the government take into account key principles. These are work towards rule harmonisation with source markets, avoid unique country rules, standardise with key source market regimes and align the introduction of new standards with those markets.

They also include allowing adequate lead times for the phase-in of new standards particularly when they need significant development which may require several years to design, test and comply to international standards, and avoid situations where individual distributors use rules to gain a market advantage.

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Nissan resumes production in Japan

Nissan plans to continue production of vehicles for its home market at five of its domestic factories after Japan’s transport ministry approved changes to the inadequate final-inspection procedures that prompted a major vehicle recall.

The company had suspended domestic production of all passenger cars earlier in October after noticing that uncertified technicians had been signing off on final inspections for decades.

This initiated a recall of around 1 million vehicles for investigation, including all light vehicles it produced for sale in Japan over the past three years.

Nissan said on Monday that its plants in Fukuoka, Kanagawa and Tochigi would resume production for the domestic market, along with plants operated by affiliate Nissan Shatai in Fukuoka and Kanagawa.

Nissan said it had corrected inconsistencies and that it was taking measures to improve training and testing processes for inspectors.

Japan’s transport ministry now requires certified inspectors to sign off on vehicle checks for cars sold in Japan. This is however not a step that is required for vehicles exported overseas.

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Sumitomo reveals its Smart Tyre Concept

Sumitomo Rubber Industries, Ltd. revealed its ‘Smart Tyre Concept’ at the 45th Tokyo Motor Show 2017.

The new development will provide balanced safety and environmental performance at higher levels than ever before so that they can keep up with the future of the automotive industry. 

The automotive industry is currently facing massive changes, with growing concern over environmental issues, shifting demographics brought about by increasingly urbanised and ageing societies, and revolutionary new technologies such as artificial technology. 

At this year’s Tokyo Motor Show, Sumitomo introduced some of their research and development trends at the core of its Smart Tyre Concept, including: “Sensing Core,” “Active Tread,” “Performance Sustaining Technology,” and “Airless Tyres”.

In 2020, Sumitomo plans to begin mass production of a new tyre that maintains the performance of brand new tyre for longer.

In 2023, they plan to unveil a new concept tyre that incorporates its Active Tread Technology, which will enable the tyre to perform the same high level of performance regardless of what road condition. 

Sumitomo maintains that it will continue these and other research developments towards creating an all-new tyre for the new decade. 

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Nissan’s sales plummet amid scandal

Nissan Motor Co announced earlier this week that Japanese sales of new vehicles has dropped by approximately 50% in October compared to last years figures. 

Last month the discovery of improper final inspection procedures at Nissan Motor Co.’s domestic plants caused it to partly suspend production. 

Nissan didn’t provide exact figures for this month’s sales, but the car company sold 38,708 vehicles in Japan in October 2016.

The plants will resume production once the final inspection procedures have been brought in line with transport ministry requirements, a spokesman for the automaker said.

Nissan has completed those measures at one assembly plant and expects to have made similar changes at five other plants by the end of the week, he said.

This month was supposed to mark the unveiling of an electric-vehicle offensive for Nissan, who is eager to establish itself as the leader in the race to electrify its vehicle line-up.

Nissan is anticipated to outline a global EV sales push when it reports its earnings next week.

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Self-driving cars by 2020

Consumer car brands are hinting they could be bringing in electrically powered self-driving cars as early as 2020. With cities around the world becoming more environmentally aware, it’s no surprise that the once far-fetched technology is closer than ever before. 

This year’s Tokyo Road Show revolves around the implementation of Artificial Intelligence (AI), which includes the ability for cars to drive themselves as well as assist the driver.

It also showcased that hybrid petrol/electric, fully electric (EV) and Fuel Cell Vehicles (FCV) are going to be a driving force for a cleaner environment and more cost-effective motoring.

The word ‘concept’ in the automotive industry has always been associated as a far-fetched idea manufactured in a way that showcases current design prowess. But this time the term ‘concept’ couldn’t be anymore real and not as crazy as one might think. 

Toyota Concept-i Series

Toyota’s Concept-I incorporates AI and connected technologies designed to help your car better understand people and therefore providing a safer driving experience. 

The car’s emotion recognition and “alertness level estimation” feature can tell the driver’s mood by analysing facial expressions and body language.
The Lexus LS+ concept also adopts AI technology, called ‘Urban Teammate’, that allows for fully automated, hands-free driving on regular roads, as well as ‘Highway Teammate’ for automated driving on fast expressways. 

Both of these technologies are due to come online for selected Toyota and Lexus models by 2020 and will provide automated steering along with automatic lane merging, lane changing and diverging as well as constantly keeping a safe distance to the car in front.

Like the Toyota Concept-i, the LS+ Concept both learns and ‘grows’ with its driver’s habits and styles over time.

Lexus LS+ Concept

 

 

 

 

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The Honda EV Sports Concept

Honda’s latest concept car is an all-electric, two-seat sports car, combining EV performance and AI in a compact form. (more…)

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Subaru dented by quality scandal

Automaker Subaru said on Friday that it’s planning to recall roughly 255,000 cars, becoming the latest Japanese firm hurt by a quality scandal.

The company said they allowed uncertified workers to carry out inspections on its vehicles at its biggest Japanese factory.

CEO Yasuyuki Yoshinaga told reporters that the practice goes back thirty years and that the company didn’t realize until recently that it was breaking government rules. 

Workers who didn’t have enough experience to do checks borrowed Japanese “hanko” seals from authorized employees and stamped documents to show vehicles had passed the tests.

The issues at Subaru were revealed after Nissan reported similar problems last month, which then prompted the Japanese government to request that other automakers inspect their production lines. 

The scandals have stunned the public and have questioned the nation’s prized image for “monozukuri” or craftsman-like quality.

Subaru expects the planned recall to cost it more than NZ$64 million

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Strong win for Japan Prime Minister Abe

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe secured a historic election victory last week, edging the country closer to revising its pacifist constitution.

Despite a string of alleged cronyism scandals and the ensuing approval rate crisis earlier this year, Abe managed to remain confident and won a major gamble in calling for an early election.

Abe will likely to continue policies he has pursued in the nearly five years since taking office: addressing increasing security threats; a hard line on North Korea; an ageing society; and the need to end the country’s long economic stagnation.

Among the most contentious proposed revisions is the one seeking to add a clause to Article 9 of the Constitution. Currently it states that Japan will not maintain armed forces to ensure it does not wage a war again. The revised version will state that it will transform Japan’s Self-Defence into full-fledged military.

However, constitutional change will require not only approval from two-thirds of both the Upper and Lower Houses, but also majority approval in a public referendum.

Another equally significant hurdle is the fact that, even if constitutional change were possible, Japan’s fiscal health may not be up to the task.

The single biggest concern of Japanese voters is the state of the economy, the outlook for public welfare and pension payments in particular. Such concerns can easily be understood seeing as a quarter of the population is already 65 years or older. Furthermore, Japan’s debt to gross domestic product (GDP) ratio is the highest among OECD countries.

The Liberal Democratic Party is due to hold presidential elections next September, however last Sunday’s victory means Abe is virtually assured of retaining the leadership of his party for another three years and going on to be the longest serving prime minister in Japanese history.
 

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