Japanese Automakers: A Made-in-Canada Story
In 2018, after more than three decades of behind-the-scenes efforts, the Japanese Automobile Manufacturers Association of Canada (JAMA Canada) asked Pilot to assist in its efforts to support the federal government’s signing of the new Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), establishing free trade between Canada and Japan.
As trade negotiations evolved, Japanese-brand automakers were compelled to showcase the benefits of liberalized trade as a way to support the government’s agenda, position Japanese-brand auto manufacturing to Canadians as a made-in-Canada story, and use the success of Japanese-brand auto manufacturing in Canada as a primary example of the value of liberalized trade.
Japanese-brand automakers have traditionally taken a conservative approach to media and stakeholder relations.
Our strategy called on the industry to be much more vocal, in many ways exalting the successes of Japanese-brand automakers over North American brands. We launched a media relations campaign on the theme that “openness is the engine that drives Canada.” Reaching out to every major media outlet and business editor covering the auto industry in the country, we provided an alternate view to the self-serving messaging coming out of the big three U.S. auto manufacturers who typically dominate the airwaves on the issue of trade.
Our efforts included regularly prompting editors, writers, and producers to ensure the Japanese auto industry had a legitimate place within Canadian auto industry news stories. In many cases, media found the approach refreshing, especially when presented with compelling facts and data points (e.g. nearly half of all light vehicles manufactured in Canada are Japanese brands).
As the CPTPP story unfolded, we successfully inserted the Japanese auto industry’s point of view into 30+ major business stories over a period of four weeks, reaching over 14 million Canadians and establishing important, long-lasting media relationships.
Their renewed stance provided them with much needed confidence as the international auto trade story evolved.
JAMA Canada has been instrumental in supporting Canada’s successful entry into force of several new trade agreements, including the CPTPP, CETA and the new NAFTA. In late 2020, JAMA Canada announced that after 36 years of activities focused on improving trade and investment in the automotive sector, as well as strengthening the economic partnership between Canada and Japan, the association had successfully fulfilled its core mandate and would cease operations effective March 31, 2021.