U.S. auto makers need to find something else to kvetch about. The Japanese Trade Ministry said kankei nai ne (who cares, or more polite words to the same effect) and changed the Nipponese cash for clunkers program. If you trade in your clunker for a car imported from the United States, you now qualify for a government handout. According to Reuters, clunker cash will be given to buyers of “suitable cars imported under the “Preferential Handling Procedure,” a deal agreed with the United States in 1986 to speed the import of models that sell less than 2,000 units a year.” Under this program, cars are not properly homologated in Japan, and receive no official mpg rating. The lack of that rating excluded them from Japanese clunker largess.
Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada “that concerns are rising in the U.S. Congress” about Japan’s cash for clunkers incentive scheme. U.S. Congresswoman Betty Sutton (the very same who wanted to exclude foreign cars from the American C4C bonanza) introduced a resolution calling for the U.S. Trade Representative to start talks with Tokyo and urged Washington to bring a WTO case against Japan if it does not open up its program to American cars.
Much ado about next to nothing: Japan imported about 14,000 cars from the United States in 2008, says the Japan Automobile Importers’ Association. 3.2 million new cars were sold in Japan that year. Kankei nai ne indeed.
(Now slightly outdated) fact sheet by JAMA (Japanese Auto Manufacturers Association) explaining the program and the preferential handling procedure here for download.