David Fickling:

U.S. automakers’ failure to sell their cars in Japan has been a gripe for Detroit since the Carter administration. Another round of whingeing looks set to begin.”It’s not fair,” the Nikkei Asian Review quoted President Donald Trump as telling a meeting of chief executives at the White House Monday. “They do things to us that make it impossible to sell cars in Japan.”On the numbers, he appears to have a point. Ford Motor Co. announced last year it was pulling out of Japan, saying the nation was the most closed developed auto market in the world.General Motors Co. is an even smaller presence. Its mighty Buick marque typically sells fewer units in Japan than Morgan Motor Co., a family business based in an English spa town that hand-builds about 1,300 Jazz Age-styled cars a year.Only Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV does better, with its Jeep brand selling more models in Japan than GM and Ford put together. But SUVs are a rare presence on Japanese roads, so that makes Detroit’s third player a decent-sized fish in a very small puddle.Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has a different explanation for U.S. automakers’ failure to compete: They’re simply not trying. They don’t advertise on television, exhibit at the Tokyo Motor Show, or even make much effort to build vehicles for Japan’s right-hand-drive market, he said Monday.They also have to battle consumer perceptions that they’re costly and poor quality, something for which the government can’t really be blamed.The truth is largely on Abe’s side. While the U.S. has a 2.5 percent tariff on all passenger car imports and imposes 25 percent on trucks, Japan removed its last levies on auto imports almost four decades ago.Imports are certainly a small share of the market, but they’re on the rise — going from about 4.5 percent of sales in 2012 to 5.9 percent last year.