Thirty years ago, Japan Inc.
's formidable battery of domestic auto plants seemed ready to conquer the world. A nervous U.S. industry watched as the Japanese export machine devoured American jobs. Consultants trumpeted the supremacy of the Japanese business model.
But in a dramatic reversal, the Japanese are tensely witnessing the decline of the auto industry on their own turf. Much of the lost production is moving to North America. Domestic sales are in a downward spiral, and exports continue to sink.
The distraught Japanese have even coined a term for the malady: kuudouka, or "hollowing out."