My Fellow Americans, Our Long National Game Of Chicken May Be Coming To An End

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth
my fellow americans our long national game of chicken may be coming to an end

I come to praise the chicken tax, not to bury it. In exchange for the short-term consequence of a few people paying too much for Toyota trucks with insta-rust beds, this country managed to acquire a pretty substantial infrastructure to build “foreign” automobiles while still providing jobs to Americans. It even helped the Japanese automakers, who managed to survive the 1985/1986 spike in the yen without abandoning the US market because they were largely in the process of moving production to the Southern states.

In recent years, however, the 25% tariff has come to be ever-so-slightly irrelevant, primarily affecting buyers of the Ford Transit Connect who can’t figure out why there are wrench marks on the floor of their brand-new cargo vans. And now it might be gone for good.

The Detroit News reports that the so-called “chicken tax”, which has been in effect since 1963, is very much on the table as the United States attempts to negotiate a “Trans-Pacific Partnership” with Japan and ten other Asian countries. Apparently we’re looking for some Japanese barriers to trade to be dropped in return. It should be noted at this time that, under previous administration, the official position of TheTruthAboutCars regarding barriers to American products in Japan could best be summed up as “Japan is a completely open market just begging for loads of imports from other countries and it’s all America’s fault that people don’t buy your crap.” Our current editorial position on this is, ah, somewhat more flexible.

Who would the winners and losers be from the removal of the tariff? Well, Mahindra and a few other manufacturers might take another stab at this market. European vans like the Jumpy and Kangoo and whatnot, particularly those assembled in Turkey and other low-cost nations, might get a look in as well. So prices would likely drop a bit and customer choice would increase. That’s a good thing.

Domestic truck manufacturers, including Honda/Toyota/Nissan, would see lower transaction prices but it’s unlikely that any of them would return truck production to Japan. For those of you who haven’t tuned in lately, a whole bunch of the ol’ quantitative easing and various financial disastrous stuff have combined to take their toll on the almighty dollar and make our country, ’tis of thee, a bit of a low-cost production area. Honda’s so firmly based in the United States that it’s hard to imagine the company ever moving any production of anything back to Japan. This is unlikely to cost American jobs to any significant degree, particularly now that Ford’s tooled up Kansas City to build the full-size Transit.

We’ll keep you posted on developments as they occur. In the meantime, if you’ve always dreamed of a Skoda Praktik or something like that… hold tight, but don’t start counting your chickens.

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8 of 237 comments
  • Art  Vandelay Art Vandelay on Aug 08, 2013

    Yet I have I could point out that even during the minitruck boom in the US when we got unadulterated global small trucks they never outsold the big trucks. I have spent significant time behind the wheel of all manner of global mid sizers (HiLux, Navarra, TaTa, Mahindra, Great Wall, 70 series Land Cruiser pickups, Defender Pickups to name a few.) You guys constantly bashing the full size trucks are like the damn Panther crowd. Yes, Panthers are durable cars but you'd think they got 40MPG while pulling 10,000 pounds with 500,000 miles on the ODO to hear some tell it. Your global trucks are are our full size rigs. They are tailored for unique markets and the fullsizers work here. Markets are different...hence no Kei cars in Nebraska. Now lets take the Amorok. Everyone seems to throw it out as a truck that could dethrone the full sizers. Here is what is likely to happen if it went on sale Chicken tax fall. 1. Price is very close or higher than comparative full size trucks. 2. Diesel is offered as an expensive option that, when combined with the price of Diesel (it costs MORE in the US, not less) amounts to a very long return on investment. 3. Truck has reliability on par with every other VW, further hurting sales. 4. The small truck conspiracy crowd on TTAC decries whatever conspiracy they see that killed this truck and proclaim we are a bunch of idiotic rednecks/hillbillies/whatever and America is doomed to failure. Again, I am not simply defending my purchase of one of these US trucks since I own a shiny red base 2013 Frontier...which is the same as your damn Navarra and an old Panther IS a much more capable truck than some of the "global" trucks I mentioned above.

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    • Art  Vandelay Art Vandelay on Aug 08, 2013

      @doctor olds And if those GM ones enjoy any measure of success you can count on the global Ranger making it here since it was designed with this market in mind. And yes, the Ridgeline is an absolute joke...It isn't even a decent toy.

  • Wmba Wmba on Aug 08, 2013

    What I cannot understand is why the Americans and Australians seem to want to engage in a pissing contest about pickup trucks. Hell, to hear Dr Olds go on about it, America is paradise on Earth, where everyone is rich and has at least two vehicles and couldn't care less about fuel costs, a meme which is contradicted in every trip I've made to the US in the last 35 years. On the other hand, the Australians pay themselves huge salaries and pay ridiculous prices for Toyota pickup trucks as compensation, and seem hell-bent on criticizing Americans for buying pickup trucks and not using them for WORK duties, while claiming that the basic same pieces of tin magically carry twice the payload of the same vehicle flogged in America. Who cares? As anyone knows who has been here, Canada has both places beat hands down, and buys more pickup trucks per capita than even the Americans do. Go to and read the details. Since the majority of these truck sales are Detroit iron, I'd have to say the Yanks win the argument. Hell, apart from the sissy enclaves of professional folk in Calgary and Edmonton, every Albertan with a pulse and a cowboy hat drives a pickup! I hate the darn things myself, and rent a van as necessary. Give me a decent car everytime.

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    • Big Al from Oz Big Al from Oz on Aug 09, 2013

      @wmba It isn't a pissing competition. DocOlds is correct that Australia, Canada and the US are very close in culture and even income. The difference in income is marginal, it's not that we pay ourselves too much or pay too much for a Hilux. As for the pickup truck differences, well, I do think the US should open up and allow imports, but it might kill off jobs. But the US has to change what it competes, rather than use protectionism. Remember we do have full size trucks here, we can compare. The US doesn't have midsizers of any real stature, especially over the past several years when midsizer have progressed to the point of why would I want a 1/2 ton full size truck over a new midsizer. Back in the late 90's I considered buying a V8 Ram here in Australia because we didn't have any pickup that was really comparable, but I ended up with a D20 diesel, and I fell in love with the diesel engine, especially off roading and FE. The US economy has declined as of late and I hope it improves. This will force our currency down to realistic levels, so our wages are comparable to the US. This decline in the OECD has forced the value of our currency higher, much higher. This is why it appears we pay ourselves too much. If our currency was worth $1.00AUD to 70cUSD we would be quite even in costs of living and prices we pay. Economics can be quite involved.

  • Alan The Prado shouldn't have the Landcruiser name attached. It isn't a Landcruiser as much as a Tacoma or 4 Runner or a FJ Cruiser. Toyota have used the Landcruiser name as a marketing exercise for years. In Australia the RAV4 even had Landcruiser attached years ago! The Toyota Landcruiser is the Landcruiser, not a tarted up Tacoma wagon.Here a GX Prado cost about $61k before on roads, this is about $41k USD. This is a 2.8 diesel 4x4 with all the off road tricky stuff, plus AC, power windows, etc. I'm wondering if Toyota will perform the Nissan Armada treatment on it and debase the Prado. The Patrol here is actually as capable and possibly more capable than the Landcruiser off road (according to some reviews). The Armada was 'muricanised and the off road ability was reduced a lot. Who ever heard of a 2 wheel drive Patrol.Does the US need the Prado? Why not. Another option to choose from built by Toyota that is overpriced and uses old tech.My sister had a Prado Grande, I didn't think much of it. It was narrow inside and not that comfortable. Her Grand Cherokee was more comfortable and now her Toureg is even more comfortable, but you can still feel the road in the seat of your pants and ears.
  • Jeffrey No tis vehicle doen't need to come to America. The market if flooded in this segment what we need are fun affordable vehicles.
  • Nrd515 I don't really see the point of annual inspections, especially when the car is under 3 years (warranty) old. Inspections should be safety related, ONLY, none of the nonsensical CA ARB rules that end up being something like, "Your air intake doesn't have an ARB sticker on it, so you have to remove it and buy one just like it that does have the ARB sticker on it!". If the car or whatever isn't puking smoke out of it, and it doesn't make your eyes water, like an old Chevy Bel-Air I was behind on Wed did, it's fine. I was stuck in traffic behind that old car, and wow, the gasoline smell was super potent. It was in nice shape, but man, it was choking me. I was amused by the 80 something old guy driving it, he even had a hat with a feather in it, THE sign of someone you don't want to be driving anywhere near you.
  • Lou_BC "15mpg EPA" The 2023 ZR2 Colorado is supposed to be 16 mpg
  • ToolGuy "The more aerodynamic, organic shape of the Mark VIII meant ride height was slightly lower than before at 53.6 inches, over 54.2” for the Mark VII."• I am not sure that ride height means what you think it means.Elaboration: There is some possible disagreement about what "ride height" refers to. Some say ground clearance, some say H point (without calling it that), some say something else. But none of those people would use a number of over 4 feet for a stock Mark anything.Then you go on to use it correctly ("A notable advancement in the Mark VIII’s suspension was programming to lower the ride height slightly at high speeds, which assisted fuel economy via improved aerodynamics.") so what do I know. Plus, I ended a sentence with a preposition. 🙂