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Hi Blog. File under “revenge is sweet”: McDonald’s Japan lost out big last year in Japan in part, according to the article below, to their gaijin shill “Mr James”. They refused to retract the campaign, and then played dirty pool in the media regardless of how it affected Japan’s ethnic minorities. (It’s not only McD’s, of course; Mercedes-Benz is currently doing much the same thing with their own idiotic gaijin shill “Mr Naruhodo”; at least he speaks in kanji too.) But this time, according to this article, it looks as though they got bit in the ass for it.
Good. Kinda makes one believe in karma after all. Arudou Debito in Banff.
McDonald’s to Close Hundreds of Outlets in Japan
By JONATHAN BERR
Posted 8:45 AM 02/09/10, courtesy of ADW
McDonald’s Corp. (MCD) is closing 430 restaurants in Japan, the latest sign of the faltering economy in the Asian country.
A 50% owned affiliate will shutter the locations over the next 12 to 18 months in conjunction with the strategic review of the company’s real estate portfolio. The world’s largest restaurant chain plans to take charges of $40 million to $50 million in the first half of the year. McDonald’s Holdings Co. (Japan) has 3,700 stores.
“These actions are designed to enhance the customer experience, overall profitability and returns of the market,” the company said in a press release.
McDonald’s also is opening 90 new restaurants and refurbishing 200 in Japan. Clearly, McDonald’s is retrenching. The fast food market in Japan is bad because of the weak economy. It’s the same reason that Wendy’s Arby’s Group Inc. (WEN) said in December that it was exiting the Asian country. A Wall Street Journal editorial recently argued that “the unfolding economic crack-up in Tokyo is something to behold.” Japan has never really recovered from the lost decade of the 1990s and the current worldwide economic recession is underscoring these weaknesses. Some experts have urged U.S. officials to learn from Japan’s mistakes.
The Golden Arches has been struggling in Japan for a while. Last year, a marketing campaign featuring “Mr. James,” a geeky, Japan-loving American, was denounced as an offensive flop, according to Time.com. McDonald’s has tried to appeal to Japanese tastes with wassabi burgers, chicken burgers and sukiyaki burgers. A Texas Burger, with barbecue sauce, fried onions, bacon, cheese and spicy mustard, proved to be a hit. But consolidated sales at McDonald’s Japan fell 10.8% last year. Profit is expected to plunge 54.7% this year.
Overall, though, McDonald’s continues to hum along. Global sales rose 2.6% in January, topping analysts’ estimates. Comparable store sales in the U.S. fell 0.7% in January, a weak performance that nonetheless surpassed the rest of the industry thanks to the popularity of the Mac Snack Wrap and the Dollar Breakfast Dollar Menu. In Europe, Asia/Pacific, the Middle East and Africa, comparable sales rose 4.3%. Shares are up 6.6% over the past year.
26 comments on “DailyFinance.com: McDonald’s Japan loses big, shutting 430 outlets, thanks in part to “Mr James” campaign”
To me it looks more like McDonald’s is just getting rid of unprofitable stores, partly to open up stores in more profitable locations.
Some information in the article is not questionable. Fast food chains are less affected by a weak economy and Wendy had been doing well last year (they closed because they couldn’t agree on new contract conditions with the Japanese counterpart). Minus 10.8% sales isn’t too bad in the current economy. One has to look at the profit rather than sales numbers.
The press release sounds like they actually had quite a good year:
McDonald’s Japan reports highest group net profit since listing
Tuesday, February 09, 2010 7:19 AM
TOKYO, Feb. 9, 2010 (Kyodo News International) — McDonald’s Holdings Co. (Japan) said Tuesday its group net profit in 2009 rose 3.4 percent from the previous year to 12.81 billion yen, the highest since its listing on the Jasdaq Securities Exchange in 2001.
While consolidated sales declined 10.8 percent to 362.31 billion yen, the hamburger restaurant chain boosted sales on a same-store basis for the sixth consecutive year.
But sales at all McDonald’s restaurants (NYSE:MCD) in Japan, including franchise stores, grew 2.6 percent from a year earlier to a record high of 531.92 billion yen, up for the fourth straight year.
Its dividend payment for 2009 was left unchanged from 30 yen per share a year earlier.
In 2010, the company plans to shut down 433 unprofitable restaurants out of around 3,700 McDonald’s stores in Japan. At the same time, it intends to open 90 new restaurants and refurbish 200 stores.
McDonald’s Holdings is expecting group net profit this year to plunge 54.7 percent from 2009 to 5.8 billion yen due to special losses, including around 12 billion yen in store shutdown costs. Consolidated sales are projected to decline 13.6 percent to 313 billion yen. (Source: iStockAnalyst )
— Not to me. Looks more to me like the parroting of a McD’s Japan press release trying to turn their frown upside down.
As another blog has noted, the reporting (or at least the fact-checking) in this article is sketchy at best. AFAIK there are no wasabi (nor wassabi? [sic])burgers or sukiyaki burgers (TERIYAKI burgers? yes) in Japan.
Putting any of the blame for this on the offensiveness of Mr. James is wishful thinking. Maybe a few dozen (at most) NJ taking offense, many of whom probably already avoid McD’s for other reasons (such as having seen “Supersize Me”), maybe costing McD’s what? 1-man? by not going to McDs is not even a drop in the bucket. Doing the math, that would be less than a 0.000003% hit in sales, which actually IS less than the proportion of a drop in a bucket. If McD’s lost 1,000,000 yen in sales from a Mr. James boycott, it WOULD make it to the drop-in-the-bucket level. Math is fun. Anyway…
I’d much more likely believe an argument based on marketing research that found Mr. James to just be lame and uninteresting as responsible for some of the sales decline. Though the campaign of bringing back previous hit burgers (the practical part of the Mr. James campaign) probably helped profits. But journalists can’t be bothered to find out. They’d have to actually leave their desks instead of selectively pulling facts from McD’s own press releases and then editorializing and making shit up to fill column inches.
This article would’ve gotten me a pretty bad grade in my basic journalism class, and that’s why articles like this push my buttons, not some love for McD’s.
It would be nice to know if a Mr. James boycott REALLY did play more than a 0.000003% part in McD’s annual sales.
You seem to suggest that McD’s reporting profits is spin? It is no less spin than the half-researched article by Kyodo. And certainly far less spin than you are applying to the story.
A profitable (even in these times) company closing unprofitable branches so that they can be MORE profitable next year is not something to gloat over. Even if it WERE, doing so just makes you look silly. Looking silly does not serve our cause.
Unless you’re trying to be silly? Sometimes these things go over my head.
I wouldn’t get too excited about one sentence in a small article mentioning the “Mr. James” brouhaha. Ken Aston is correct to point Debito.org readers to what really matters: a careful look at the company’s financial profile.
BusinessWeek offers free four-year financial snapshots of listed Japanese companies. You can click on McDonald’s Holdings Co. Japan below:
From a financial standpoint, it’s clear that the company is doing very well in Japan. Revenues might be slowly rising (averaging 7 percent growth year-on-year), but the company made up for it in spades over the past four years by slashing costs in an impressive way. Gross, operating, and net profit continue to rise year-on-year by leaps and bounds (averaging 981 percent growth year-on-year). The only possible way the company can keep this up is by shutting down unprofitable stores in an obviously saturated market. I’m afraid that this situation can be attributed far more to the slowing economy than to Debito’s op-ed piece calling for a boycott.
As for “Mr. James,” the campaign seems to have had an ironic effect (people still ate there). The free publicity generated for the company seems to have had absolutely no long-term negative effect on the shares traded, which makes sense considering how few foreign (NJ) customers and investors there were to begin with. September 2009 reported the company’s fourth-quarter financial results. It did very well, and not surprisingly, the share price went up on the back of the news and have continued to rise thereafter.
If the market were worried about these store closings, it would be reflected in the share price. So far, the market doesn’t seem to care. The share price for McDonalds Holdings Co. Japan has been very stable over the past few weeks since the news was announced.
— Nice sourcing of articles. Pity you won’t give mine the same justice. I never called for a boycott in my op-ed piece.
I took a look at their financial statements because I found it curious that McDonalds would be losing big – I would expect the opposite in this type of climate. As Ken says, profit is actually up. Sales dropped due to store closures, which is natural. But same-store sales are up and overall profit (not just profitability) is also up. I would say they are doing a good job.
McDonalds say that they are closing their unprofitable stores – smaller stores that can not be converted into 24-hour stores, which their big strategy right now. I would be inclined to believe them.
Mr. James was a horrible advertising campaign, but it looks like same-store sales rose in spite of it.
I don’t understand were sales up or down last year for McDonalds?
According to FT (emphasis is mine):
I agree with the points you made about the James campaign, and I do think Mac will be more careful in the future. Nevertheless, I think as the primary target hit by the ad campaign were specifically white males in Japan. Probably not a large group (relatively speaking), and one unlikely to generate much sympathy for itself, however warranted. We lack the financial clout that would be useful to have when issues like this arise. I certainly don’t appreciate the fact that Mac made me look both like a goober and a *foreigner*.
Sorry, Debito, that Mr James campaign was very irritating but it didn’t affect McDonald’s sales. They had a good year and that article you link to is ill-informed.
There are several reasons they are closing stores in Japan. First, labor costs have risen because courts ruled they can’t treat managers like slaves any more. That raises fixed costs on many outlets. Second, their competitors are pulling out, especially the family restaurants. McDs used a policy in Japan of “sandwiching” competitor restaurants by putting outlets either side to choke off walk-by trade. They don’t need those now and they are the main ones being closed.
My guess is that neither Japanese consumers nor investors could care less about whether the “Mr James” ad campaign was offensive to non-Japanese. The Time.com article did not suggest that the campaign was unsuccessful as a marketing tool.
One could just as easily imagine that Japanese consumers have finally realized that McDonald’s “food” is unappealing, and regardless of how cheap they make it, there are other, more attractive alternatives.
They may be closing 430 shops, but the ones that are still open for business have cars overflowing out of the parking lots and into the streets, causing a public nuisance where I live. They close a few stores, fire a few part-timers, and their stocks rise. Fewer employees, less overhead, unchanged dividend payments from a year before (http://www.istockanalyst.com/article/viewiStockNews/articleid/3849031), you get a picture of a lean, profitable company to invest in.
I don’t see the revenge angle here.
I don’t think most of the Japanese were offended by the Mr. James campaign. I thought it was some gaijin-taleento selling his image. And then I thought maybe a language school chain had joined in some sort of promotional tie-in, since they share so much of the same real estate.
It looks to me like the issue is more about bad real estate investing (which is quite analogous to the language school chain thing, is it not?) and market-saturation. Like all these chains, they have to figure out how to keep sales and profits growing, so they can keep paying shareholders more and more while keeping McD’s US happy. So they are most likely trying to change the strategic configuration of their locations in order to maximize profits.
I don’t get the feeling of the arches falling just yet either. Recent Internet news articles (Sorry, I’ve got no defense against a charge of parroting McD’s press releases) suggest a small growth in foreign markets (including Japan) even though domestic (U.S.)sales are declining. Closure of unprofitable stores and the continuing revamping (this revamping process started about 2 years ago or so)of outlets hardly suggests to me a ‘losing big’ nor does the Mr. James campaign appear to have been the source of much grief to the company beyond being ‘denounced as an offensive flop’ in some circles here in Japan.
The Time.com article does little beyond suggesting that the campaign created ‘a stir among non-Japanese residents’ and basically just repeats what was being said here at debito.org. I’m not sure just what impact the Mr. James campaign had on the bottom line of McD’s but I can’t imagine that any one small campaign that only seemed to bother a potential 1.5% of Japan’s population of 127 million (Time.com) people would have that big an impact. The article is somewhat misleading in just what amount of struggle might have been involved. It also is misleading one to believe that in spite of certain successes such as the Texas Burger campaign , they still lost money last year. One of the problems with that assertion in my view is that the Texas Burger / New York Burger is part of their Big America campaign that has only just begun in Jan/Feb of 2010 so could hardly have had much impact on last year’s sales one way or another.
Over 1 billion “serves them right”. Racist ads aside, it’s time people stop eating this slop. Less locations equals less people eating what can barely be called “food”.
im happy that there MCjames campaign is starting to bite them in the butt. believe me that was really a PR nightmare for them, wheather they admit it or not.I say bring back wendys, and close more of those MCjames stores…
I would look at it more like an uninspiring campaign that didn’t attract people to the stores, more than something that caused McDonald’s to lose sales.
Japan is saturated with fast food restaurants, so it’s no surprise that companies are rethinking their strategies.
As I recall, this big push for American fast food was an ’80’s Trade War concession from the time when Congress was talking big on trade sanctions. The talk was that the only thing America had to offer Japan that was unique and competitive was fast food.
So Japan got more McDonald’s-es and America inevitably bail out GM. Plus Chrysler (twice).
Ultimately, what will do xenophobia in is the fact that it is just bad business.
— Not sure we can cite this as a case of xenophobia. More of unfair ethnic stereotyping.
“McDonald’s Japan … consolidated sales declined 10.8 percent”
“McDonald’s Corp. (MCD) is closing 430 restaurants in Japan”
“Profit is expected to plunge 54.7% this year.”
And within all that admittedly bad news, the author JB added that the
Mr. James campaign was “an offensive flop, according to Time.com”
So, Debito happens to think there is some connection, either directly
or through karma, and as it happens I too think there is a connection.
Don’t be fooled by McDonald’s positive-seeming-statistic PR-BS.
When even McDonalds predicts profits will drop 54.7% this year
(and that’s just their current claim, it probably will be much worse)
I think we’re perfectly justified in cracking open a beer and a smile. 🙂
When profit margins are slim, it doesn’t take much of a drop in overall sales to cut profits in half.
Mr. James likely reduced sales to offended expatriates. He likely reduced sales among such peoples’ friends even more. Perhaps most significant of all, he probably took the edge off the enthusiasm of Japanese fans of American stuff. (It’s really hard for me to imagine a foreign food chain succeeding in America by portraying its country of origin as the land of geeks.) I can easily imagine a 10% drop in sales, solely attributable to Mr. James.
I’m calling this another clear victory for you.
You’re doing it again, only looking at the facts that please you.
And claiming the entire 10% drop in sales is due to Mr. James??
Even if we imagine that 10,000 personally-offended NJ who used to be weekly customers decided to boycott from Day One of Mr. James. (Can we agree that’s a wild overestimate? Are there even 10,000 socially conscious debito readers who are also regular weekly McD’s customers in all of Japan?)
10,000x600yen per mealx16 weeks in 2009 (Mr. James appeared in August or Sept. I think) since the Mr. James campaign = a hypothetical net loss of 120,000,000 yen in potential sales. Which I think is safe to say is insanely overestimating things.
That would still only mean a 0.05% drop in the 360 billion in sales.
To get to 10% due to boycotts, you need 2,000,000 former customers boycotting. (You can’t count people who didn’t used to eat McD’s) Or only 300,000 if you assume these boycotters used to eat at McD’s once a day. But I’m pretty sure if people were eating that much, the more likely scenario is McD’s losing their sales to the fact that those customers are now dead.
Wouldn’t just changing eating habits, people packing bentos more, or McD’s price increases in 2009 be a more likely reason?
You’re being silly. “clear victory” indeed.
But hey, I could be wrong. However, your extraordinary claims (10% sales drop: thus 2,000,000 regular customers decided to boycott McD’s Japan because of Mr. James) require extraordinary evidence. Come up with a petition, even an online one, with even 10,000 names. Good luck.
But let me say, I also hated Mr. James. And I think it WOULD be nice if it were true that the silly, racist ad campaign made people hate McD’s and cost them profits. But I just don’t think it’s even remotely possible.
Claiming credit for this just makes this site look dishonest, and those who agree without criticism look like sheep (or even debito-hating trolls/sock puppets trying to egg on the more silly arguments to make the site look bad). That does not help us when bigger issues come up. And it also turns off a large segment of the long-term NJ residents, a good chunk of whom think debito has a tendency to, to be polite, engage in hyperbole. And this is such a case.
So go ahead and make yourselves look silly by irrationally claiming an imagined victory. But you’re not helping.
— Fine. But I think you’re overreacting more you think we’re overreacting.
The article made the linkage, and I cited it. Disagree with it if you like, and cite your evidence, as you have. But I for one will insist that “Mr James” brought forth a much-needed debate about business ethics in Japan, and certainly did not help McD’s Japan in sales of product. Disagree with that too, if you like. But it’s hardly hyperbolic.
Steve, it’s net profits that they estimate will fall by half, not operating profits. One-time charges – such as store-closures – are registered on the bottom line but it’s sales and operating profits which tell you how the core business is doing. The company is forecasting a 7.3% increase in operating profit for this year (5% at the ordinary profit level).
As for margins being slim, McDs actually expanded operating margins in 2009 as sales fell 10% but operating profit rose 24%.
January 2010 sales at McDs were up over 10% compared with last year. There’s no sign at all they are struggling.
A limited sample at best, but I asked 15 Japanese people–Fukui people–if they had noticed the Mr. James ads (if only the stupid-looking cutouts). Only 3 even knew what I was talking about. One child, though, said he thought Mr. James (he didn’t know the guy’s name but he knew the cut-out that stood near the order queue) was the guy who taught English to Ronald McDonald.
That was more or less what I thought too.
Japan’s McD’s when it was in an expansionary mode was considered a hot business. It then went into a costly price war with other chains–and drove some out of business or at least out of some markets. It certainly hit the ‘bottom line’ of some of those other chains (Mos Burger comes to mind). But patterns of retail are shifting and McD’s has to move away from its traditional urban-real estate base.
Also, McD’s has to share profits with McD’s US and with Coca Cola. Soft drinks are the single largest source of profits in a typical McDs in the US. But the deal on sharing profits with Coca Cola McD’s Japan gets aren’t as good here. Plus as I said it has to make capital interests in the US happy too.
Offsetting this somewhat is the high yen. I would look for their profits overall to go up so long as the yen stays that strong.
“The article made the linkage, and I cited it. Disagree with it if you like, and cite your evidence, as you have. But I for one will insist that “Mr James” brought forth a much-needed debate about business ethics in Japan, and certainly did not help McD’s Japan in sales of product. Disagree with that too, if you like. But it’s hardly hyperbolic.”
Correlation does not imply causation. The article being cited http://www.dailyfinance.com/story/mcdonalds-to-close-430-outlets-in-japan-as-economy-falters/19350531/ implies a causal link and cites a Time.com http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1918246,00.html in support of that claim. The Times.com article cites Arudo Debito, the chair of the Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens’ Association of Japan, and a 67 member strong, “I hate Mr. James” Facebook group in support of its claim.
I think the evidence is weak in support of that claim and that the Daily Finance article would have been better had it not tried to make such a causal link. I think the argument here at debito.org would be better if we didn’t use quotes from debito.org as evidence in support of debito.org
In this case both the Daily Finance and debito.org are making a classic mistake of logical fallacy. Correlation does not imply causation. The only much needed debate about business ethics in Japan I recall was brought forth HERE at debito.org and that would hardly be representative of the wider issue or its impact on McD’s sales.
— Soooo…. I should have ignored the article?
“Nice sourcing of articles. Pity you won’t give mine the same justice. I never called for a boycott in my op-ed piece.”
Debito, I sincerely got the impression, both in your op-ed and here on your website, that you were suggesting to Debito.org readers that they stop eating at McDonald’s Japan if the company continued with its “Mr. James” campaign. Indeed, talking about “revenge is sweet” in terms of its financial profile implies just that, wouldn’t you agree?
Are you now going-on-the-record stating clearly that you never wanted nor implied that Debito.org readers should stop eating at McDonald’s Japan in protest if the company continued with the advertisement? A simple “yes” or “no” would help me (and I suspect most readers) know what you wanted if they didn’t stop.
In fact, it would be useful from now on if you are crystal clear about what “protest” means in your vocabulary. If “protest” just means sending the occasional friendly letter to a company (which you and FRANCA did here), then that situation is simply customer feedback (one of countless letters they receive on an annual basis and usually taken with a grain of salt). Why did you want to talk about the company’s sales, store closings, and profits with this posting if you weren’t implying otherwise? Seriously.
— I did not call for a boycott in my JT column — where I was making the case for why the ethnic stereotyping is problematic and why McD’s Japan should cease the campaign. Surely your reading comprehension subroutines are not offline. And if you do a word search for “boycott” in all articles having to do with “Mr James” on Debito.org blog entries, you’ll also find the word “boycott” was never used. When you cite me, cite correctly. An actual quote would be nice.
(For the record, I am boycotting McDonald’s, i.e. I personally will never eat there again. Feel free to do the same. Is this what you were looking for in terms of clarity?)
As for talking about sales etc., the article I cite makes the case that “Mr James” hurt (or at least did not help, which is what I will go with) McD’s Japan’s sales. Does that mean what we did was effective in shaming McD’s Japan, and perhaps they’ll think twice before doing something so insensitive again? Quite possibly. Does that mean I’m claiming some sort of “victory” for my and FRANCA’s efforts to get McD Japan to stoppit? Not sure if that’s what happened (‘cos they didn’t stoppit); and if you switch on your reading comprehension subroutines you’ll note I never claimed that. What I’m saying is that it sure does feel good to know that a business model based upon nasty ethnic stereotyping isn’t successful.
Now, regarding that “revenge” angle: Remember, McD’s Japan didn’t fight fair: They thought they could get away with it by ignoring the issue, refusing to debate in Japanese for domestic consumption. Point is, given the sales figures cited in retrospect, I don’t think they did get away with it. Given the meanness of the company towards a segment of its customers, I’ll feel free to talk about that here with a stripe of Schadenfreude and vindictiveness, if you don’t mind. Again, this is my blog and I’ll say what I like.
“I did not call for a boycott in my JT column — where I was making the case for why the ethnic stereotyping is problematic and why McD’s Japan should cease the campaign. Surely your reading comprehension subroutines are not offline. And if you do a word search for “boycott” in all articles having to do with “Mr James” on Debito.org blog entries, you’ll also find the word “boycott” was never used. When you cite me, cite correctly. An actual quote would be nice.”
Either your above comment is being deliberately pedantic or just tongue-and-cheek playful. Since it is difficult to distinguish intent on the internet, I’ll be polite but frank. Yes, it is true. The word “boycott” never appears in your article, but so what? I never said that you explicitly used the word. I simply stated that the article “suggested” a boycott of the company and that it was “implied” in the discourse — something that multiple bloggers were able to infer, too.
Indeed, the Far Easter Economic Review also got the (correct) impression that you were suggesting a boycott of McDonalds Japan. Available at: http://www.feer.com/tales/?p=1877
“McDonald’s Japan is under fire for a marketing campaign lampooning a certain Mr. James, a hapless, bespectacled American who represents a fictitious McDonald’s fan club called the ‘Nippon All-Stars’ and professes his unwavering love for the fast-food chain through pidgin Japanese. In a letter to McDonald’s, FRANCA, a ‘human-rights group concerned with the rights of non-Japanese residents in Japan,’ finds the whole thing highly regrettable. The group, comprised of humorless white people who speak Japanese, is organizing a boycott of McDonald’s on the grounds that the ad campaign is undermining years of campaigning for their civil rights.”
In addition, you are quoted in the South China Morning Post (August 21, 2009) saying:
“’McDonald’s has obviously put a lot of money into this campaign as there are full-length posters and banners in every restaurant that I see as well as by the side of roads here, and the company is apparently not concerned that they are offending people and hope we continue to buy their burgers,’ Franca chairman Debito Arudou, a naturalised Japanese born in the United States, said.”
To me, such a comment suggested (not explicitly states) that a boycott was under way. The list goes on.
As it turns out, I was correct. You acknowledged for the record that you *are* boycotting McDonald’s Holding Company Japan and you are encouraging others to do the same. So, why must we play the silly game of *gotcha!*? It is the equivalent of attaching [sic] on a small spelling mistake or perceived error in an article simply because one doesn’t like the author and wants desperately to find something, anything, to complain about.
— Or perhaps you’re just obtuse?
I boycotted McD’s.
Or rather, I were too fed up with them after their Mr McJames campaign.
I have my doubts about Mr McJames playing much into their loss, but so do I with their other reason: recession could actually do the lower-bracket “restaurants” good. It’s what you choose if you can’t go for the more expensive junk food around.
Regardless, in the words of Huffington Post: Karma’s a bitch.
Does it matter whether Debito said so, someone else did,
or people made up their minds on their own?
I agree with you though; I doubt the McJames fiasco can be substantially sourced to their loss even if half of the “westerners” in Japan who frequents McDs skipped out on a McMeny. It’s just too low of a number.
But can’t you just be happy that they got it,
no matter who or what ultimately gave it to them.
Japanese Mercedes campaign
It would appear that Mr. James has a German relative perhaps:
The funniest thing with the “Mr. Naruhodo” ads is that although the pronunciation of “naruhodo” with a German accent would turn out very similar to the original Japanese pronunciation, as can be heard in the ads when Mr. Naruhodo introduces himself in German, the pronunciation of “naruhodo” in the 2nd halves of the ads (when he’s looking at the various features of the vehicles) is given quite clearly with an extremely emphasized English, more like “Narrowhowdow”. The voice over here is obviously by a different actor.
That Mr. Naruhodo sounds even worse than Mr. James… (; _ 😉