Saying Hello To BMW-San

How to sell autos to Japan

The effort seemed destined to become one of the most futile and foolhardy moves in marketing history, as ridiculous as trying to sell snow to Eskimos or coals to Newcastle. Six years ago BMW, the West German automaker, decided to start a major drive to increase its exports to the land of Honda and Toyota. Walter Sawallisch, director of marketing for BMW Japan, recalls vividly the reaction his company got from industry experts: "When we began, people told us there was no chance at all. They said the Japanese would never buy foreign- made cars."

But the naysayers were wrong. BMW...

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