To qualify for Japan’s cash-for-clunker program, new vehicles must meet the 2010 fuel economy standard of 35.5 mpg, making 87 percent of Japanese-made vehicles on sale in their home market eligible for the credit of up to $2,800. In fact, the Japanese program doesn’t even require a clunker (MY 1996 or older) to trade in, although without giving up an inefficient vehicle, the best credit available is a mere $1,132. But the American Automotive Policy Council calls these rules “unfair,” telling the Freep:
We urge the U.S. government to make clear that it cannot tolerate this outright discrimination, particularly at a time when it has provided substantial direct financial support for Japanese automakers in this market
Huh? Is the AAPC talking about America’s cash-for-clunker program, which (like Japan’s) sent Honda and Toyota sales soaring? Or the $1.6b DOE “ATVML” loans that Nissan got, which were dwarfed by the same program’s generosity towards Ford? Or perhaps the $82b+ TARP bailout that… oh wait, that all went to Detroit. Ok, let’s forget about America’s “substantial direct financial support for Japanese automakers” for a second and figure out just how unfair this Japanese program is.
The problem, in a nutshell, is that American automakers have sold a combined 7,901 vehicles in Japan this year. Because those numbers are so low, the Detroit firms are allowed to import vehicles under a program where their fuel efficiency does not have to be rated by the Japanese government. Because it doesn’t have official efficiency data on the low-volume models that use this program, the Japanese government has made them ineligible for the program. If we’re not mistaken though, this importation program isn’t mandated by the Japanese government, but automakers choose to use it anyway. Presumably, if Detroit had any models that could really compete in a 35.5 mpg market, they’d import them through normal channels. But with fewer than 8k units sold YTD, the Japanese market can’t possibly worth the trouble, which explains why the shrilly irrelevant AAPC was put on the case.