By on January 19, 2010

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(Now slightly outdated) fact sheet by JAMA (Japanese Auto Manufacturers Association) explaining the program and the preferential handling procedure here for download.

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11 Comments on “American Cars Cleared For Japanese C4C Money...”

  • avatar

    Since we allowed our trade representative and our congresscritters to open our borders to foreign trade – they have not finished the job. We were sold on TWO-WAY markets; we would open our borders, and they would open theirs.

    This is one of the first times the Japanese have tried to play along. After twenty years of market growth in the US and the bankrupsy of GM and Chrysler, the Japanese now feel a need to play nice. Oh, goodie!

    The reason for this change is political. Toyota, Honda and Nissan are concerned that over the past year there could be a backlash against them for helping drive US manufacturers out of existance. It isn’t their fault, of course.

    But after hearing about how great the global economy was going to be, all we have seen in the US is how the global economy has screwed us. We were told that our balance of trade would be offset by the new global markets that would be open to us.

    Had Congress done what it had promised it would do, and push for open borders and trade from countries like Japan, we wouldn’t be seeing the massive unemployment and loss of businesses in the US.

    It is time for Congress to start telling foreign companies like Toyota, Honda and Nissan that until their countries give us a level playing field, they can expect to be taxed to help pay for the disaster that is the city of Detroit and the armies of unemployed within the US.

    This is a start – but a drop in the bucket from a very selfish country.

    • 0 avatar

      Hear, hear!

    • 0 avatar

      Even if trade was equal, what American products do you suppose Japanese consumers would buy in large numbers over similar Japanese products? Certainly not cars.

    • 0 avatar

      Are you serious?  There isn’t even a car built in the US (except postal vehicles) that has the steering wheel on the right side, do you really think the average Japanese buyer would consider buying a car like that.  This is hardly a symptom of some longstanding unfair trade practices, the American car companies have shown they aren’t in touch with even the American consumer, the Japanese consumer isn’t even on the map.

    • 0 avatar
      Telegraph Road

      Ford, in fact, sells a large number of vehicles in right-hand-drive markets (e.g. UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand).  With Ford having to worry less now about cannibalizing partner Mazda’s sales in the Japanese Domestic Market, I wouldn’t be surprised if Ford steps up its presence there with some of its cars (e.g. Ka, Fiesta, Focus, Kuga) that are gaining share in Europe at the expense of Toyota.

  • avatar

    This was wasted energy. When the numbers come in, it will be a totally different picture than our C4C. If any American cars show up within the top 20 it would be a surprise. Where is the kvetching about the products from here that could really make a dent?

  • avatar

    But after hearing about how great the global economy was going to be, all we have seen in the US is how the global economy has screwed us. We were told that our balance of trade would be offset by the new global markets that would be open to us.
    The problems vis a vis “new, open markets” isn’t that they’re closed to American trade as much as a) we have nothing they want and b) it’s a race to the bottom anyways.
    Things that America solely produces that people actually want (eg, intellectual property in general and media in particular) are in heavy demand.  But no one wants to buy anything that America’s middle class makes because they can get the same locally from their own middle class, or they’ll buy it somewhere else cheaper.
    I do agree that the middle class was sold on globalization as some kind of panacaea.  It isn’t, of course, unless you’re in a position to benefit from it; obviously, most people aren’t, unless they’re a low-cost producer, in which case they’ll benefit for as long as they can remain low-cost.  Again, race to the bottom.
    Japan isn’t selfish as much as it’s better aware of the problem globalization poses.  Much of this is because industry and government in Japan show a more enlightened self-interest than their American equivalents do.   They recognize that, unless they want to see their middle class hollowed out, they need to do something to protect themselves.

  • avatar


    What an interesting topic.

    I know the Japanese / Chinese / Koreans etc, want American cars, or German cars.. they believe makes / models not made in their country is better and or more prestigious.

    The rules are different in Japan / China, and to sell there, you have to abide by their rules, fair or not.

    On many levels, the C4C is a big giant load of crap.
    It came to Europe to spike peoples interest and be green, by dumping an older car.
    Then the U.S gets involved and takes a simple concept and butchers it to the point that NOW we are going back TO INVESTIGATE CLAIMS OF FRAUD!

    In the end..
    I think this is more of a POA than its worth.

  • avatar

    I think most here miss the point. At no time US cars were excluded from the Japanese C4C. It is only that they had the special privilege to voluntarily waive the mpg-ratings if they sold less than 2000 cars. They always could have gotten that mpg rating.
    The Japanese C4C program requires 35.5 mpg minimum. With no rating, they (and any other manufacturer) were excluded. So basically they blame the Japanese for doing them a favor in the first place by waiving their mpg-requirement.
    US companies could sell millions of cars if they went through the  testing (same way Japanese companies have to go through US EPA/safety testing). If they had cars at 35.5+ mpg, they could have gotten C4C money. The low sales numbers of US cars are not based on barriers. Besides the barrier that no one wants a US car in a $8/gallon market with tiny streets for tiny people (compared to American over sized humans anyway).

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