Jiro Yanase

Inducted 2004

Yanase & Co., Ltd. is Japan’s largest distributor and dealer of imported cars, having sold at one time or another Cadillac, Buick, Pontiac, Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, Saturn, Opel, Saab, Vauxhall, Mercedes-Benz, Chrysler, Volkswagen, Audi, Volvo, Fiat, Studebaker and others. For the better part of a century, Jiro Yanase has provided American and European manufacturers the initial entrance — and the most successful means of selling cars — to the Japanese market. Yanase & Co., Ltd. was founded by Chotaro Yanase in 1915, which began importing and selling Buick and Cadillac automobiles, as well as Valvoline oil products. Chotaro Yanase’s son, Jiro, joined Yanase & Co., Ltd. in 1939 at the age of 23. Ironically, the same year Jiro Yanase joined the company, imports from the U.S. were suspended. In order for the company to survive, it began to produce car bodies for Japanese manufacturers and developed a natural gas device for powering automobiles, which became necessary to comply with strict controls on wartime gasoline consumption. Even during the war years, Jiro Yanase’s vision ensured that automobiles would be the primary focus of Yanase & Co., Ltd. With the war over, Jiro Yanase was named as the president of Yanase & Co., Ltd. at the mere age of 29 and worked hard to reestablish the pre-war relationships with foreign automakers. In 1948, General Motors resumed exporting its entire model line-up to Japan, using Yanase & Co., Ltd. as its distributor. With the post-war Japanese economic growth came the demand for automobiles. Jiro Yanase was successful in importing European makes Vauxhall, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen in 1950, 1952 and 1954 respectively. In the 1960s, Yanase acquired the rights to import Volvo and Audi automobiles. Yanase & Co., Ltd. maintains its own automotive sales network, with showrooms throughout Japan. In Japan, the name Yanase is as recognizable to the consumer as is Toyota, Honda or Nissan. Jiro Yanase became a member of the Yanase board of directors in 1945 and chairman of the board in 1985. Over the years, Mr. Yanase has forged business relationships and/or friendships with the top executives of virtually all American and European manufacturers. Under his leadership, Yanase & Co., Ltd. has become the largest Japanese importer of foreign automobiles.

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Class of 2004

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