6 Feb 19

Leasing in Japan: hold your horses

Regardless of the presence of extremely mature leasing companies, there is no leasing market as difficult as the Japanese. For the untrained, non-Japanese speaking Fleet Manager, many of – or the absence of – strategic decisions made by the Japanese stakeholder will come across as inadequate, unprofessional or at worst, inefficient and expensive.

A quick tender exercise will immediately reveal that better pricing is available on the market; supplier relationships that exceed 10 years without a single tender and with disastrous impact on the TCO are not exceptional. Nevertheless, the first tip is: hold your horses.

No disruption please

The way Japanese business works is essentially different from the Western way. Japanese don’t know nor understand short-term objectives and will not accept them from a Westerner. Similarly, any kind of disruption is looked upon with great mistrust.

And there’s a good reason for this. Relationship and operational excellence are essential for Japanese businesses. Those who are or have been fortunate enough to have worked or lived in Japan, will know that the country is complex, but also that everything works to perfection (the Japanese train system being a good example). 

Changing a supplier means disruption and risk of mistakes; no amount of money can justify this.

Tip 2 is therefore: make your intentions clear, but leave it up to the Japanese stakeholder to execute. Things will happen at a different pace from what Westerners are used to, but they will happen and the results will be satisfactory.

Tip 3 is about the hierarchical structure of Japan-based companies. Even if your company is American or European, you’ll notice that your Japanese subsidiary is different from other subsidiaries across the world. All Japanese K.K.’s (Ltd.) obey the rule of hierarchy. It’s therefore essential that, before promoting change in the fleet setup, the regional or global fleet manager involves stakeholders of the right ranking as your local fleet manager might be middle-management and not have the power to make decisions for the entire company.

Image: traffic in Tokyo

Authored by: Yves Helven