|CARS & BIKES
The big guy at Gulliver
Jack G. Beasley
speaks to Hatori Kenichi, founder of Gulliver International, on what makes his company a
giant among car dealers in Japan
|Photo Courtesy of
founder Hatori Kenichi Photo by Minako Ochii
Have you noticed, as
you drive around the outskirts of Tokyo, those big yellow and green signs pointing to your
nearest Gulliver shop? In the last few months Gulliver has been popping up all over the
place. The company has grown in leaps and bounds since it was founded in 1994 and is
setting new standards in the used car industry across Japan and worldwide.
Back in 1994, Hatori Kenichi started Gulliver International as a company which bought used
cars and then sold them at car auctions across Japan. With 70 million registered cars in
Japan, these auctions move a substantial amount of vehicles each day. As Mr. Hatori's idea
took off, people came to him directly and asked if they could buy these cars before they
actually reached auction, giving Mr. Hatori one more idea.
"I started a new branch of Gulliver International called Dolphinet," he said.
"Dolphinet handles the used car sales prior to going to auction by using a computer
and satellite system. You can come into any of our Dolphinet outlets and check on a
computer any type of car that you wish. Then, because of our 100 point system, you will
receive an accurate condition report and price for that car."
Gulliver's 100 point system for evaluating used cars is the only one like it in the world.
When I asked Mr. Hatori about the system, he said, "We have developed a system that
is much better for evaluating the condition of used cars than the standard five point
system used throughout the country. This system gives the buyer a good and fair status
report on the car he wishes to buy." The system works so well that Gulliver is trying
to make it the standard in the used car business in Japan, and they have high hopes that
it will be adopted worldwide some day.
International has, for the benefit of its English-speaking customers, put up an Internet
homepage in English (english.dolphinet.ne.jp) where you can buy and sell your car just as
if you went into one of their Dolphinet offices or stopped by a Dolphinet shop.
Knowing that foreign customers constitute such a minute percentage of the Japanese car
market, I was curious as to why Gulliver International went to all the trouble of putting
up its Dolphinet pages in English as well as Japanese. Mr. Hatori's answer was impressive.
"When I travel overseas I have always found it extremely hard to find anything in
Japanese and have always experienced problems. Therefore, I wanted to give my customers
every opportunity to have a good experience with my company. After all, we use the word
einternational' in our name and I want it to be just that." To me, this is a
good example for other companies to follow, just not in Japan but all over the world.
As of October 1999, Gulliver International had 522 franchises in Japan and this number is
rising every week. "It's an easy system to work as the dealer does not have to know
much about making an estimate," said Mr. Hatori. "They have a standard form that
is made up using our 100 point system to fill out, then they fax this form to our main
offices in Shinurayasu. Our experts take it from there." Things like damage to the
outside and inside of the car, as well as standard wear and tear are checked, then a price
is faxed back to the dealer in just a few minutes.
A family affair
The proof of Mr.
Hatori's success is the 200% growth rate achieved by Gulliver and Dolphinet since their
conception, and the future seems assured with Mr. Hatori at the helm, with the full
support of his dedicated staff.
Professionalism and diligence are qualities Mr. Hatori exudes and which seem to be part of
the ethos of his company. He is a keen scuba diver and never misses the chance to go
diving when time allows. He also likes to jog to keep in shape and does a circuit around
Tokyo Disneyland twice a week - his favorite place to run. "I feel that the sea
breeze in Shinurayasu is good for one's health" he says. At work, he sounds like the
ideal boss, and he certainly keeps a finger on the heartbeat of his company. "He's
seldom at his desk," said one employee. "He's always walking around the offices
in our building, talking to and helping his employees." Mr. Hatori is not just the
company's founder - he's as much a part of what's going on at all levels as anyone else,
and always invited on company outings. "It's not interesting if Mr. Hatori can't
attend our outings," said one employee, "and we don't have much fun without him
Where and when will it all end? All I know is that with those 70 million registered cars
on our streets, with more on the way, Mr. Hatori and his excellent staff at Gulliver
International have their work cut out.