Collision Course: Selling European High Performance Motorcycles in Japan

Case Solution

Jeff Hicks, Derek Lehmberg
Ivey Publishing ()

In 2006, the Japanese subsidiary of Tommasi Motorcycles, an Italian manufacturer of high-end motorcycles, implemented a new customer data application to help its motorcycle dealers increase the efficiency of their sales and marketing activities. Horizon LLP, a consulting firm, was Tommasi’s global implementation partner for the application. In order to identify dealer concerns about the new system, Tommasi Japan had hired additional consultants from Horizon to conduct a series of dealer interviews. As the consultants soon discovered, the distributors’ concerns with Tomassi went well beyond the new app. An unannounced visit from an influential dealer put all the players on a collision course and soon revealed their 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, Nobu Katoh; Tommasi Motorcycles Japan expatriate president Fambio Bonardi; Koji Saito, an influential owner of various merchants; and two Horizon consultants, neither of whom is Japanese. When they meet in the Tommasi Motorcycles Japan boardroom, the conversation that follows reveals a number of problems: the opportunistic behavior of the bilingual Katoh, who is the translator and at the same time the gatekeeper between the dealerships and Tommasi’s Japanese national office. for restricting, filtering and designing communication in both directions; limited knowledge of local market conditions by Tommasi’s expat management, who rotate in and out of positions every three years; Frustration of enterprising traders; and the naivete of the consultants, who saw neither the social hierarchies at work nor their cultural and linguistic fluency, which was always an advantage in previous projects, could also represent a threat.

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