Collision Course: Selling European High Performance Motorcycles in Japan
(15 pages of text)
Case (Gen Exp)
In 2006, the Japanese subsidiary of Tommasi Motorcycles, an Italian manufacturer of high-end motorcycles, was implementing a new customer data application to help its motorcycle dealerships increase the effectiveness of their sales and marketing activities. Horizon LLP, a consulting firm, was Tommasi’s global implementation partner for the application. To identify any dealer concerns regarding the new system, Tommasi Japan had brought in additional consultants from Horizon to conduct interviews with the dealers. As the consultants soon discovered, the dealers’ concerns with Tomassi went far beyond the new application. An unannounced visit by an influential dealer set all the players on a collision course, and soon exposed their widely differing views and a number of fundamental problems in the relationship between Tommasi Motorcycles Japan and its dealer network.
The case begins with a series of separate dialogues involving the director of sales and marketing; the expatriate president of Tommasi Motorcycles Japan; an influential owner of multiple dealerships; and two non-Japanese consultants from Horizon. When they meet in the board room of Tommasi Motorcycles Japan, the ensuing conversation reveals a number of issues: opportunistic behaviour by the bilingual director of sales and marketing, who limits and shapes communications between the dealers and Tommasi’s Japanese National Office; a limited understanding of local market conditions by expatriate Tommasi management; frustration on the part of business-savvy dealers; and naiveté on the part of the consultants, who do not see the social hierarchies at work, nor realize that their cultural and language fluency, which has in past projects always been an asset, could also be a threat.
This case is suitable for courses in international business, international management, and international strategy. It provides an opportunity to debate the role of international subsidiaries in relation to the worldwide headquarters, and to discuss the management of cultural differences and language barriers, the suitability of using expatriates in overseas leadership roles, and how subsidiaries may try to change and/or subvert HQ plans. This case, as it provides views inside and outside of the firm, is best used after both have been introduced in the course.
Japan, Large, 2006
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