Category: Japan

By on June 28, 2017

1995 Ford Explorer Limited, Image: Ford

Back in late May of this year, I inquired which modern automaker was the most daring. While I posited it could be Nissan or Volvo, many of you replied it was actually Dodge, followed by Kia and Mazda.

This week, let’s turn back the clock a couple of decades and see if all our answers require a bit of reworking. We’re off to everyone’s favorite car decade, the 1990s. Which automaker was most daring in the era of the neon and teal fanny pack? I’ll give you two specific model examples, much like I did before.

Read More >

By on June 19, 2017

Chrysler 300 Japan

We all remember former Chrysler Corporation chairman Lee Iacocca railing against the Japanese for their uber-expensive land and not-so-open borders. Well, Jeep sales are slowly picking up in that Detroit Three-averse country, but one storied American brand isn’t doing so hot.

Chrysler. Sure, the brand isn’t doing all that great in its home country, either, what with only two models to show for itself. Still, Japanese buyers seem particularly unimpressed with the sole model Chrysler has to offer it.

Still, even with nearly nonexistent sales, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles isn’t about to throw in the towel just yet. Read More >

By on April 27, 2017

[Image: goodharbor/Flickr]

A major auto industry supplier has found itself on the receiving end of a multi-million-dollar fine north of the border, following an investigation into an international bid-rigging conspiracy.

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice leveled a fine of $13.4 million against Mitsubishi Electric on Tuesday for its role in the illegal agreement. The supplier pleaded guilty to three charges, making it only the most recent Japanese supplier to face expensive justice for landing a juicy — but dodgy — parts contract. Read More >

By on April 24, 2017

Eneos Gas Station With Hydrogen Pumps

The United States and Canada don’t have much of a hydrogen fueling infrastructure to speak of, but Japanese automakers continue sending fuel cell vehicles across the ocean anyway. Vehicles like the Honda Clarity and Toyota Mirai have been touted as the environmental saviors of tomorrow but, with the exception of California, there really isn’t a place for them in the North America of today. So why do Japanese manufactures continue to bother with hydrogen?

The main reason is because Japan has bought into a future that America doesn’t seem interested in. With three of its automakers already producing fuel cell cars, the government as adopted a fairly aggressive plan to adopt hydrogen for homes, business, and cars by 2030 — meaning the U.S. probably won’t see these vehicles vanish anytime soon.  Read More >

By on February 9, 2017

Viper Supra Corvette

Japanese cars gradually overcame the stigma of being low-quality, unreliable trash piles after entering the U.S. market decades ago. Imports became commonplace during the 1970s and Japan’s cars began setting the new benchmark for automotive quality while Ronald Reagan was in office.

The inverse can be said of American cars being sold in Japan, and it’s a well-documented and long-running annoyance for the American automotive industry. In January, a frustrated President Donald Trump complained that Japan does “things to us that make it impossible to sell cars in Japan, and yet, they sell cars [in the United States] and they come in by the hundreds of thousands on the biggest ships I’ve ever seen.”

Though the statement could be taken as contentious, as Japan does not impose any tariffs on U.S. cars, the country also exported 1.6 million vehicles to the States while America sold fewer than 19,000 back in 2015. Something is definitely amiss, and while it might not be as simple a reason as Japan hating our cars, that’s still a large part of it.  Read More >

By on January 16, 2017

2016 Honda Civic Sedan - Image: Honda

The first Honda Civic made its way to the United States during the Nixon administration. Honda began building Civics in the United States in 1986. Two years later, Honda of Canada Manufacturing began Civic production, as well.

In 2016, with an assembly plant in Greensburg, Indiana, and Alliston, Ontario, Honda is building more than 38,000 Civics per month in North America.

Yet seven years after Honda discontinued the Civic in its Japanese home market, Civic production is returning to Japan.

Civic sales resume in Japan this summer, and some of those Japanese-built Civics, Automotive News reports, might make their way to America. Read More >

By on January 9, 2017

2018 Lexus LS at NAIAS Front 3/4, Image: © 2017 Mark Stevenson/The Truth About Cars

It wasn’t long ago that Lexus could reliably sell 20,000-plus LS sedans in the U.S. each year. Certainly, the model’s pre-recession sales performance fell under the heading of “reliable,” with over 35,000 sold in 2007.

Ever since great economic upheaval sent American buyers fleeing in increasing numbers into the arms of crossovers and SUV, the Lexus sedan that created tsunami-like ripples through the luxury car field in 1990 has seen its customer base erode. Just 5,514 U.S. buyers saw fit to take an LS home in 2016.

Could a redesign bordering on the radical be the medicine the LS so desperately needs? Read More >

By on October 27, 2016

Infiniti four-cylinder turbocharged gasoline VC-T engine, Image: Infiniti

It was 1998 and my friend Tom had just picked up a 1991 Eagle Talon TSI AWD.

“Ok, go ahead and floor it, but don’t rev it past 5,000 rpm,” Tom said.

I mashed the throttle and … nothing happened.

We were moving, but it was at the pace of a Toyota Corolla and nowhere near the rate of acceleration promised by the 2.0-liter turbo’s claimed 195 horsepower.

Disappointed, I left my foot on the throttle for a few seconds. Suddenly, I heard the whistle of the spooling turbo and a sudden shove of boost kicked in.

Four-cylinder turbo engines from the ‘90s were all similar to this. While they generated relatively big power at the top end, they also suffered from massive turbo lag and had fuel economy similar to a much larger V8.

Nissan’s new Variable Compression Turbo engine promises big power, minimal turbo lag, and decent fuel economy using some new trickery.

Is this the holy grail of turbocharged motors?
Read More >

By on August 31, 2016

U.S. Marines amphibious assault vehicle (U.S. Pacific Command/Flickr)

What a difference seven decades make. In the early 1940s, Mitsubishi Zeroes of the Imperial Japanese Navy tangled with U.S. Grumman Wildcats and Hellcats in the skies over the west Pacific. Now, the aircraft’s builder wants the U.S. Marines to sign up for its amphibious assault vehicle.

Japan is getting into the arms export game after scrapping a law forbidding it, with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries now in talks with a U.S. company to partner on the vehicle, Reuters reports. Read More >

By on July 29, 2016

2017 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, Image: Mitsubishi

The long-anticipated Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid, expected later this year, has once again been postponed for the U.S. and Canada.

This is at least the fifth time it’s been delayed in North America since its 2013 Japan-market launch. Mitsubishi’s U.S. market public relations manager, Alex Fedorak, confirmed the latest delay.

“Following a thorough evaluation process, we have determined that, in order to meet a level of competitiveness that will exceed customer expectations in the United States, the launch of the Outlander PHEV will be delayed until the summer of 2017,” said Fedorak.

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By on July 22, 2016

Isuzu D-Max

Update: Automotive News is reporting General Motors is now focusing “on the higher end of the market while the Japanese firm sticks to selling vehicles for everyday commercial purposes,” strongly hinting that GM is the one that broke off the collaboration. We’ve added detail below.

After announcing a new bromance with Mazda just over a week ago, Isuzu is calling it quits with its old beau General Motors.

(Or maybe GM caught Isuzu cheating behind its back. Who knows? The relationship dynamics at play between automakers are difficult to flesh out.)

Regardless, midsize trucks — badged as both Isuzus and Chevrolets — will be no more in the Land of Smiles. The duo, which has a truck plant each in Thailand, will decouple their R&D efforts as they move toward engineering new global midsize pickups.

Read More >

By on May 31, 2016

Osamu and Toshihiro Suzuki

After the Mitsubishi fuel economy scandal triggered a Japan-wide investigation into fuel economy claims, Suzuki is now in a similar situation as its diamond-starred competitor.

But the reasoning behind Suzuki’s misdeed is different: the automaker, it claims, was destitute.

Read More >

By on May 25, 2016

2016 Mitsubishi Outlander

A top Nissan executive is packing his bags and getting ready to take on Mitsubishi’s shadowy and scandal-prone technology arm.

Yesterday’s reports proved true, with Mitsuhiko Yamashita, Nissan’s chief technology adviser, announced today as Mitsubishi’s new head of research and development. He will take on the position starting June 24.

There’s a tough job waiting for Yamashita. Read More >

By on May 18, 2016

2015 Mitsubishi RVR (6 of 11)

He’s been with the company since the Plymouth Sapporo/Dodge Challenger era, but Mitsubishi president Tetsuro Aikawa’s tenure comes to an abrupt end in June.

Aikawa stepped down today after less than two years at the helm, the victim of his company’s ongoing fuel economy scandal, according to an announcement from the automaker. Ryugo Nakao, the company’s executive vice-president in charge of quality, is also out the door. Read More >

By on May 13, 2016

2016 Nissan Titan XD PRO-4X Grille, Image: © 2015 Mark Stevenson/The Truth About Cars

Yesterday’s news that Nissan will buy a 34-percent controlling stake in Mitsubishi for $2.2 billion was the latest win for Carlos Ghosn, the man behind the Renault-Nissan Alliance of 1999 and possessor of many fingers in many pies.

Ghosn, CEO of both Nissan and Renault, inked the agreement with Mitsubishi as the other automaker battles a misleading gas-mileage scandal. At a price of 468.52 yen/share, Ghosn’s purchase of new shares was a smoking deal. Mitsubishi shares traded for 1,100 yen just last December.

What becomes of the two companies now? And how will Ghosn’s world-straddling empire benefit by snapping up beleaguered Mitsubishi? Read More >

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