DETROIT — DETROIT -- The U.S. automakers' main trade organization yesterday ejected its only Japanese member, Honda Motor Co., signaling that the domestic manufacturers intend to intensify their lobbying efforts on trade and other issues.
The Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Association explained that it was limiting membership to General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Corp. "to focus on the common issues and interests that are unique to the domestic manufacturers."
Honda, which has been striving to position itself in the eyes of consumers and lawmakers as a U.S. automaker, said it was disappointed to be excluded. Honda executives said the company had been generous in sharing its advanced manufacturing skills with competitors.
"Although we are a new entrant, we consider ourselves to be part of the American automobile industry," said Toyoji Yashiki, president of Honda's U.S. manufacturing subsidiary.
Privately, officials of Honda and the Big Three acknowledged that it had become increasingly difficult for them to reach consensus on issues like the recent negotiations with Mexico on the North American Free Trade Agreement. The United States, with guidance from the automakers' trade group, was able to secure provisions for the Big Three that give them great advantages in the Mexican market over Honda and other Japanese auto companies.
Moreover, in the Big Three's complaint to the government last year contending that some Japanese automakers had dumped minivans on the U.S. market below cost, Honda was embarrassed because, even though it does not build minivans, it believed the trade organization's staff was working on behalf of the Big Three.
The decision to turn the trade group into the Big Three's exclusive province also was a triumph over long-standing rivalries among the U.S. automakers.
"They had been talking about this for some time, but no one could really decide," said Thomas H. Hanna, the group's president.
Mr. Hanna delivered the news at Honda's factory in Marysville, Ohio, yesterday.
"We tried to be as sensitive as we could," he said. "No insult or disparagement was intended."