Iacocca urges import limits Want Japan held to fixed percentage of U.S. auto market.

October 16, 1991|By New York Times

AUBURN HILLS, MICH. XHC MPB — AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Lee A. Iacocca says that the Big Three automakers should consider promoting federal legislation zTC to limit the Japanese car industry to a fixed percentage of the American market.

Speaking at the dedication of Chrysler Corp.'s $1 billion technology center outside Detroit, Iacocca, Chrysler's chairman, said yesterday: "We've never favored a complete restriction, but we'll have to decide our collective position. We have to deal with our own self-interests. At some point, you have to decide what you stand for."

The nation is "out of the electronics business, the VCR business and soon we could be out of the car business," he added.

Iacocca said he had not discussed the idea with executives of Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp. or the Bush administration.

A GM spokesman said he was not aware of any such proposal under consideration by the company, and a Ford official did not provide an immediate response to a telephone call seeking comment.

The Chrysler chairman's remarks seemed to be motivated by a growing sense of desperation that Japanese competition and a weak economy were mortally wounding the nation's largest manufacturing industry.

A limit of market share, like the 16 percent cap imposed last summer by the European Community through 1999, would cover all cars and trucks sold by Japanese manufacturers, including those assembled at American factories, or transplants, like Honda Motor Co.'s plant in Marysville, Ohio.

Japanese producers now sell about 31 percent of the cars sold in the United States.

It was not immediately clear yesterday how Iacocca's proposal would treat Japanese components, which are found in most domestic models, or vehicles built in joint-venture plants but sold by domestic manufacturers. General Motors' Geo Prizm car, for example, is built in Fremont, Calif., but has an engine made by Toyota Motor Corp.

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