- Captive import
Captive import is an
automobile marketingterm denoting a foreign-built vehicle that is sold and serviced by a domestic manufacturer through its own dealer distribution system.
The foreign car may be produced by a
subsidiaryof the same company, be a joint venturewith another firm, or acquired under licensefrom a completely separate entity. The brand name used may be that of the domestic company, the foreign builder, or an unrelated marque entirely (this is one type of badge engineering).
This arrangement is usually made to increase the competitiveness of the domestic brand by filling a perceived "hole" in its model lineup, which it is either not practical or not economically feasible to fill from domestic production. Captive imports are often aimed at the lower end of the market, but this is not always so.
In the American market, captive imports have had a spotty record of success.
Nash Metropolitan, sold in the U.S. from 1954 to 1962, was an interesting example because it was a captive import for Nash Motorsproduced by Austin in the UK specifically for sale in the U.S. By entering into a manufacturing arrangement, Nash would avoid the expense associated with tooling, body panels, and components. [ [http://www.uniquecarsandparts.com.au/car_info_nash_metropolitan.htm "Nash Metropolitan" Unique Cars and Parts (Australia) undated] , retrieved on May 2 2008.] When this two-seater sub-compact car was launched, it was the first time an American-designed car had been only built in Europe, having never been built in the United States. Unlike typical European cars of the era, its look was "American" and it had a design resemblance to the large or "senior" U.S.-built Nashes. It became one of the few small cars to sell during the bulk-obsessed period of U.S. automotive history.
Mercedes-Benzwas seeking entry into the American market, the company signed a marketing agreement with Studebaker- Packardand briefly became a captive brand in their showrooms. Around the same time, in a venture now largely forgotten, Pontiacdealers briefly sold Vauxhalls.
Ford, who had invented the modern captive-import system in 1948 with the British Anglia and Prefect, added its own European
Ford Caprito its U.S. Mercury line in the 1970s and saw strong sales. During the same period, Dodgedid quite well with several small Mitsubishi models, mostly sold as Dodge Colts. However, some others, such as the Plymouth Cricket(born Hillman Avenger) and Ford's entire Merkurline, gained a reputation as being poorly suited to American tastes and faded away quickly.
Other experiments, such as GM's sale of
Opelmodels like the Kadett through Buickdealers in the late 1960s and early 1970s, yielded ambivalent results; the Opels were generally well-regarded and sales were decent but never substantial. In the 1970s, when Buick decided to phase out its Opels and sell small Isuzus instead, the result was a handful of cars carrying a truly global but very amusing brand, "Buick Opel by Isuzu." Buick was not the first to rebadge Isuzus — Chevroletdid the same with their LUV pickup truck in 1972.
In 2004, GM began marketing the
Chevrolet Aveosubcompact, a rebadged Daewoo Kalos(now a rebadged Daewoo Gentra) assembled in South Korea. In 2008, GM started marketing the Saturn Astra, which is a rebadged Opel Astra, assembled in Belgium.
Europe, there have been relatively few cases of captive imports, and most have been unsuccessful. The Chevrolet Venture minivanwas sold as the Opel/Vauxhall Sintra in the late-1990s, but was not only not to European tastes, but also gained a bad reputation due to poor results in safety tests.
Brazil, the Australian-built Holden Commodoreis sold since 1998 as Chevrolet Omega, replacing the locally built car bearing the same name. Despite being well received by the press and public, sales are much worse than its locally-built counterpart, simply because of its high price. However, it is used very often as official government cars. Chevrolet also rebranded the Argentine-built Suzuki Vitaraas Chevrolet Tracker after Suzuki stopped selling cars in Brazil, but it never achieved the same selling numbers from the original car.
Japan, where foreign car manufacturers have traditionally struggled to compete in the local market, even rebadging of U.S. models like the Chevrolet Cavalieras a Toyotahave failed to improve sales. In some cases, this can be attributed to the manufacturer's lack to attention to the desires of the Japanese consumer, even to so basic a requirement as availability with right hand drive.
Australia, GM's Holdenoperation sold the 1975-84 Isuzu Bellet/Gemini, itself a license built version of the then current Opel Kadett, as the Holden Gemini. Interestingly the name was originally Holden-Isuzu Gemini but after the initial TX series the Isuzu cobranding was dropped. Perhaps the original idea was to foster the Japanese-ness of the model at a time when that might have been seen by customers as a positive, the Nissan's 610 Bluebird being marketed as the Datsun 180B being a big seller at the time. But given the Gemini was assembled in Australia at Acacia Ridge in Queenslandand Holden was still the highest selling brand (and selling its other cars on their Australian-ness) it was probably more beneficial and clearer to use the Australian identity. The Chevrolet LUVproduced by Isuzu was also sold from 1973 for a couple of years, the only official Chevrolet branded model available in Australia at the time (and since).
Reasons for failure
Various reasons have been suggested as to why captive imports often fail. The question of exchange rates is clearly important, as a sudden shift can quickly raise prices to uncompetitive levels. Some models have been justly criticized for marginal quality, or being a bad match to the local driving environment. The commitment of domestic sales and service staffs to an unfamiliar vehicle has also often been questioned, particularly if the import is seen as reducing sales of other, more profitable vehicles in the lineup.
Others fail due to no fault of their own; the
Sunbeam Tiger, for instance, an early 1960s example of the concept of an American Ford Windsor enginein a British ( Sunbeam Alpine) body and chassis, enjoyed substantial success until Sunbeam became a captive import of Chrysler Corporationin North America. Chrysler could not be realistically expected to sell a car with a Ford engine, and Chrysler V8 engines all had the distributorpositioned at the rear of the engine, unlike the front-mounted distributor of the Ford V8, making it impossible to fit the Chrysler engine into the Sunbeam engine bay without major and expensive revisions. Thus this niche of the automotive market was left to be filled with legendary success by the Ford engined Shelby Cobra.
There may be a deeper, structural issue at work, however. It could simply be that a domestic buyer is unlikely to want an import, and an import buyer is unlikely to enter a domestic showroom. A captive thus easily falls between two stools. This is probably why the practice of using a separate brand name, such as
Merkurand General Motors' short-lived Geo, has ceased — the foreignness of the car is thus discreetly made less apparent.
Not every vehicle that appears to be a captive import really is. A vehicle which is foreign-designed or badged but assembled in the market where it is sold does not fall into this category. Such vehicles are frequently the result of
joint ventureor strategic alliancearrangements between automakers.
For example, the
Renault Alliance, which was sold through American Motors (AMC) dealers in the 1980s, was actually assembled by AMC as part of the brief tie-up between the two companies. The Geo Prizm, though it was a Toyotadesign and shared a showroom with many captives, was built domestically by the GM/Toyota NUMMIjoint venture. The Eagle Talonand Plymouth Laser, both sisters to the Mitsubishi Eclipse, were manufactured in the U.S. by Diamond-Star Motors, a Chrysler/ Mitsubishi Motorsjoint ventue. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diamond-Star_Motors] Australia's Holden, although it often shares planning and hardware with the rest of GM's global empire such as Opel and Isuzu, has generally preferred to assemble its versions of such vehicles locally. Rover and Hondahave co-produced models for the European market, as have Alfa Romeoand Nissan. None of these would be considered imports.
In the United States, a vehicle that is assembled in Canada or Mexico and is distributed domestically by a Big 3 automaker is not considered a captive import. This is due to the integration of manufacturing operations by the Big 3 in these countries due to the hospitable trade environment created by the
North American Free Trade Agreement, coupled with the proximity of these nations to the U.S. Also, vehicles made and marketed by European automakers that were eventually acquired by the Big 3 automakers, such as Land Rover, Volvo, and Saab, are generally not considered to be captive imports. The Opel vehicles sold in the 1960s and 1970s are exceptions to this rule because they were sold through the Buick distribution channel. Thus, they are captive imports.
Recent examples of captive imports in the U.S. have included the
Cadillac Catera, a rebadged Opel Omega, the Chevrolet Aveo, built by GM Daewoo, and the Chrysler Crossfire— an American design which mostly uses Mercedes-Benzmechanicals but is actually built by Karmannin Germany. The most recent Pontiac GTO, which was built alongside the Australian Holden Monaro, also qualifies. The Saturn Astrais another example. It is a rebadged Opel Astrathat is imported from Belgium. The successor for Pontiac's seventh generation Grand Prix, the Pontiac G8, is a modified Holden VE Commodorethat is imported from Australia.
List of notable captive imports in the United States
List of notable captive imports in Japan
Toyota Cavalier(Chevrolet Cavalier)
Toyota Voltz(Pontiac Vibe)
List of notable captive imports in Europe
* [http://www.physics.ucsb.edu/~airboy/our_metro.html Nash Metropolitans]
* [http://patriot.net/~jonroq/stumerc.htm Studebaker-Mercedes tieup]
* [http://www.angelfire.com/me/GETASPLATTUPYA/gemini.html Isuzu Geminis, including Buick Opel version]
* [http://auto.consumerguide.com/auto/used/reviews/full/index.cfm/id/2297 Consumer Guide on Cadillac Catera]
* [http://www.automobilemag.com/reviews/0304_chrysler_crossfire/ Chrysler Crossfire review]
* [http://www.chevrolet.com/aveo/ Official Chevrolet Aveo site]
* [http://www.thepeoplenews.com/March04/page14.html A quite negative article on captives]
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
Look at other dictionaries:
captive import — an imported motor vehicle or part manufactured by another automaker usually for sale under the brand name of the importer … Dictionary of automotive terms
import — See captive import … Dictionary of automotive terms
Chevrolet Caprice — 1976 Chevrolet Caprice Classic Landau Coupe Manufacturer Chevrolet (1964 1996) Holden (2011 present) Production … Wikipedia
Eagle Medallion — Infobox Automobile name=Eagle Medallion aka=Renault Medallion manufacturer=Renault production=1987 ndash; 1989 assembly =flagicon|France Maubeuge predecessor=Renault 18i/Sportwagon AMC Concord successor=Eagle Summit class=Compact body style=4… … Wikipedia
AMC Gremlin — Infobox Automobile name = AMC Gremlin manufacturer = American Motors Corporation production = 1970 ndash; 1978 assembly = Kenosha, Wisconsin USA Brampton, Ontario, Canada Mexico City, Mexico (VAM) class = Subcompact body style = 3 door hatchback… … Wikipedia
Mitsubishi GTO — Manufacturer Mitsubishi Motors Also called Mitsubishi 3000GT Dodge Stealth Production 1990–2001 (M … Wikipedia
Nash Metropolitan — Metropolitan 1957 Metropolitan Manufacturer BMC for Nash and AMC Also called Hudson Metropolitan Metropolitan by … Wikipedia
Mitsubishi Motors — Mitsu redirects here. For the Hungarian singer, see Mónika Juhász Miczura. Mitsubishi Motors Corporation Type Public Traded as TYO … Wikipedia
Mercury (automobile) — Mercury The shape you want to be in (1985–1990) All this, at the quality of a Mercury (1990–1995) New Doors Opened (2005–2011) Former type Division Industry Automotive … Wikipedia
Asüna — was a captive import automobile brand created in 1992 for the Canadian market by General Motors as a counterpart to Geo. It was one of two successors to the Passport brand, which had a similar intent.Preceding the Asüna brand was the Passport… … Wikipedia