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. 

“Of course American cars don’t sell in Japan,” says semi-retired music producer and American automobile enthusiast Yoshihiro Masui.

“American cars have a bad image — they aren’t fuel-efficient, they break down,” he explained to The New York Times. “That’s not really true anymore, but dealers don’t make an effort to convince people. I’ve never seen a TV commercial. You go to a car show, they’re not there.”

Having little to no presence on Japanese roads doesn’t help that image problem, either. Last year, American cars only made up 0.3 percent of the Japanese market. The vehicles that are sold tend to be large, image-enhancing SUVs (Cadillac Escalade, Lincoln Navigator) or brawny American muscle cars. It’s a similar story for German imports, though Mercedes-Benz and BMW are viewed as unique luxury items and typically sell at a substantially higher volume. Many Japanese customers actually prefer left-hand drive cars to further push the idea of owning something unique, especially when they are buying German.

Price is another issue. American imports may not be subject to tariffs but a weaker yen isn’t helping a Dodge Charger that shows up in Tokyo at nearly double its domestic price — an issue former Chrysler Corp. chairman Lee Iacocca was critical of decades ago.

“I wouldn’t mind driving American cars if they didn’t need maintenance for a year,” said former diplomat Kunihiko Miyake to Bloomberg. “Cost-performance-wise, American cars are not good. That’s why I don’t buy them, not because of the nontariff barriers.”

Even with today’s smaller, more reliable, and budget-conscious models, U.S. automakers would still have to spend a fortune on improving public perception and ten times that establishing dealer networks in the Land of the Rising Sun. Even that wouldn’t assure success, though. It has been suggested that the country may not want too many foreign cars there, precisely because they are foreign.

Meanwhile, not quite two thousand miles away from Japan, Chinese consumers are becoming increasingly more interested in American brands. With a billion extra people and a willingness to buy from foreign automakers, China seems like a much more lucrative place to focus North America’s export efforts than the Pacific Islands.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will be meeting with President Trump on Friday to discuss the U.S. withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and make a case for Nippon as an automotive trading partner.

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88 Comments on “The Problem Isn’t Tariffs, Japan Just Hates American Automobiles...”


  • avatar
    JimZ

    at its core, the real tough nut to crack is the fact that the Japanese market is well-served by its domestic automakers.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    American cars have also historically been too big for Japanese roads, even when they are good cars. I think of the Toyota Previa (I’ve owned three). Toyota built a narrow body version for sale in Japan, and wider ones for elsewhere, like the US.

    • 0 avatar
      sutherland555

      Exactly this. Consider that the last gen Civic was too large to sell in Japan and the Fit is thought of a larger car, American cars can’t even really compete.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        Don’t forget Japanese taxes on larger cars, the reason the kei car is a separate category. Even the Fiat 500 wouldn’t qualify for the tax break kei cars get, or got, if they went through with cutting the tax advantages.

        The result of the kei car advantage is that Japanese designers have become masters of space utilization and small engine efficiency. American designers and engineers have a long way to go to catch up.

  • avatar
    VoGo

    American carmakers: stop whining about Japan. You never invested, and you repeatedly failed. Move on.

    China is 20X as big, and the car market is 4X as big. India similar. Focus on where the $ is.

    • 0 avatar
      NN

      exactly…Ford just announced it’s dropping out of Japan for good. They never really tried…no dealers, no advertising, no products developed for the market. What the hell do they expect? The Japanese are served well by their own manufacturers, and if they want something unique, German will do.

      The only exception I see is Tesla. Tesla could do very well in Japan, although I don’t believe they are there yet.

      • 0 avatar
        TonyJZX

        Its well known the Japanese spent billions researching the US and other Western markets to make cars specifically for Western tastes. Then they set up design studios in foreign countries in that endeavour.

        They did the homework. The Americans didnt. Remember the American invasion of domestic brands into the EU? Nah me neither.

        If you cant establish a foothold into OTHER Western nations why would markets as foreign as Asia be any easier.

        Americans build cars for themselves and they have issues with their own domestic consumption and yet they want American cars for foreigners without understanding their desires? And then blame unfair trading?

        I always think of the very American phrase “Why do they hate us?”. Its because you dont want to understand sympathise sell to your enemy.

        In any war, even economic, understand your enemy. The Japanese and Korean understand theirs.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          “Americans build cars for themselves and they have issues with their own domestic consumption”

          only because we’re a nation of cheapasses who don’t want to spend a penny more than we think we have to. Then we complain how all the jobs went away. Consumers in other countries such as Germany, Italy, Korea, etc. buy preferentially from their domestic manufacturers. We don’t.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          “Remember the American invasion of domestic brands into the EU? Nah me neither.”

          Er, Ford has been assembling in Europe for more than 100 years. GM acquired Opel and Vauxhall, and later acquired Saab.

          When GM and Ford became the first automotive multinationals, they did so during an era of high trade barriers. The Europeans were also taxing fuel at much higher rates than the US, so differences in demand were already appearing.

          So the US makers made cars for local tastes. Fords in Europe differed from the Fords in the US, which differed from the Fords in Australia and NZ. They didn’t export all of them from the US and ship them abroad; they built them locally.

          • 0 avatar
            skor

            In 1925 Ford opened a Model T factory in Yokohama.

          • 0 avatar
            TonyJZX

            Its not an ‘invasion’ if you’re already there. Tell me when US made Fords outsell other brands there or hell… even make a dint in the competition.

            Or maybe tell me about Chevrolet pulling out.

            Or regale us more with wonderful tales of Saab successes.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al From 'Murica

            Um @Tony, Ford of Europe is Ford…period. It isn’t some separate car building entities that licenses the blue oval to slap on their grills. It is the same Ford that cranks out F150s in Dearborn. The markets are different. I’m currently swinging through 4 European nations now. No, my F150 would not be a good choice here. Nor would the Opel Corsa I had be any good on the interstates back home. Go to Europe…It is almost like it is this whole other continent where people live differently and have different automotive needs than in the US. Hence the localized products.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al From 'Murica

            And @Tony following your logic tell me of all those top selling made in Japan products flooding the US market. All the top selling “Japanese” cars are made in the US

          • 0 avatar
            RobertRyan

            Little Troll
            “Go to Europe…It is almost like it is this whole other continent where people live differently and have different automotive needs than in the US. Hence the localized ”

            Nice troll and fake news. Most European vehicles end up as US vehicles,

          • 0 avatar
            WallMeerkat

            Increasingly Ford – with the One Ford policy – has been standardising their vehicle ranges in Europe and the US, especially as Europe has taken the SUV/CUV to their hearts (eg. the Escape) and the US has shown an interest in compact cars (Focus/Fiesta). The mid-size sedan market that has been shrinking now has a model for both markets – Fusion / Mondeo – rather than developing a single model for either. (Though this was tried before with the original Mondeo / Contour – where the car then was too small for US tastes).

            @Tony – GM have been successful for years with Vauxhall-Opel, in top 10 lists right across Europe.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            Tony seems determined to prove that Australia does not send TTAC her best.

            Why would Ford and GM need to “invade” Europe now when they’ve already been there for a century? How does that possibly make any sense?

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al From 'Murica

            @ Robert Ryan – Source?

      • 0 avatar
        PalestinianChicken

        NN, I’ve definitely seen Teslas on the streets here. Not a ton, but definitely a few.

        Tesla’s presence here is minimal, with just one store each in Tokyo and Osaka.

        • 0 avatar
          RobertRyan

          @WallMeerkat
          Can add the Transit to that list. Do not think the Escape is all the popular in Europe.
          Opel based products have ended up as Buicks in the US
          Ford and GM have been shrinking in Europe, VW dominates
          Ford and GM products made for the Europeam market by Europeans and built there, have been reasonably successful

  • avatar
    VoGo

    Matt,
    You call the Dodge Charger an “American” import into Japan. Hardly.

    Dutch company with UK HQ and Italian ownership control. Built in Canada. Not American. Not at all.

    • 0 avatar
      Truckducken

      but…but…it’s Imported from Detroit!

    • 0 avatar
      mojeimeje

      Is Toyota Tundra a Japanese truck? Would it sell well in Japan?

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Posky

      I see what your point and being pedantic is fine but it doesn’t really change the message. The Charger is still assembled in North America. Dodge remains an American brand under FCA US LLC and has its headquarters in the United States.

      If we follow your line of thinking Jaguar Land Rover is now Indian and Pranab Mukherjee can buy an F-Type, smugly calling it a “domestic vehicle.” No dice.

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        LAME!
        It’s not about being pedantic, it’s about being ACCURATE, Matt.

        The Challenger is exported from Canada, not the US. Saying, “Oh, you know, Canada, is part of the North America, so it’s OK” is ridiculous. Guess what? Mexico is part of North America, so next time you write about a car manufactured in Mexico, be sure to label it as American.

        And JLR and Volvo are different from FCA. Jaguars and Rovers are designed by, engineered by and built by JLR. Only the money is Indian. Volvos are designed by, engineered by and built by Volvo. Only the money is Chinese.

        The Challenger was designed by Americans (presumably), engineered by Germans (mostly) and built by Canadians. With Italian money, funneled through a Dutch corporation with a UK headquarters. That’s not American!

        Let’s get this right, or else rename the site The Alternative Truth By Matt About Cars.

        • 0 avatar
          Matt Posky

          For the purposes of this article, I would have considered a Mexican built Cruze or Chevrolet Silverado an American export too. It’s about how the consumer sees them. And I doubt your explanation, or mine, would change the minds of average Japanese car-buyers.

          As for Jaguar, I again see what you are saying but that would make it an American company while it was building the S-Type. Volvo still uses Ford’s Global C platform (built in Belgium and Malaysia) while it prepares own modular platform to share with China. However, I think most normal people would still refer to the Volvo V40 as Swedish and rest easy.

        • 0 avatar
          MLS

          It’s a bit rich to question Matt’s accuracy and then turn around and claim that the Challenger was “mostly” engineered by Germans.

          Frankly, I don’t see the great distinction between JLR, Volvo, and FCA. A Land Rover is no more designed, engineered, and built by JLR than the Challenger is by FCA. It’s unfair to single out the Challenger’s Canadian assembly given Volvo’s manufacturing operations in Belgium and China (and soon, the U.S.) and JLR’s in China, India, and Brazil. It’s also unfair to single out the Challenger’s ZF transmission given JLR’s extensive use of the same unit, and Volvo’s similar reliance on Aisin. The fact is, all three automakers are controlled by larger multinationals through convoluted ownership structures, and they source components and assemble vehicles globally.

          So let’s return to the topic at hand, i.e., the Detroit Three’s failure in Japan. From the consumer’s perspective, just as JLR is British and Volvo Swedish, so too is Dodge American.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            1. The Challenger is not imported into Japan from the US.
            2. I never mentioned transmissions – I did not single them out; I wrote nothing about transmissions
            3. There is no Detroit Three.

            Face facts: Dodge is as American as Budweiser, Lucky Strikes, Citgo or Gerber.

          • 0 avatar
            MLS

            1. I never said the Challenger was imported into Japan from the U.S.–it’s imported from Canada. And the Volvo XC60 is imported from Ghent. Does that make it a Belgian car?

            2. I mentioned transmissions to highlight the similarities between FCA, Volvo, and JLR. I also anticipated that you might cite the ZF transmission as evidence of the Challenger’s being “mostly” German-engineered.

            3. So long as FCA North America maintains a huge design, engineering, and management base in (suburban) Detroit, yes, there is.

            I fully understand that Dodge, like Budweiser and the other brands you cite, is ultimately controlled by a foreign company. I simply reject the notion that Dodge is less American than Volvo is Swedish or JLR British. Or that Budweiser is a Belgian beer. Or something.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            MLS,
            My point – from the start – was that the Challenger is not an American import to Japan, contrary to what Matt claims. Thank you for agreeing with an obvious truth.

        • 0 avatar
          Maymar

          If you’re going to be so pedantic, at least take the time to read up on the LX chassis development, which was primarily American (at this point, the Challenger doesn’t share much with any Benz besides a few suspension components).

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            That’s a nice story to tell yourself as you nod off to sleep believing in magical Mopar fairies capable of actually engineering a real car, Maymar, but answer me this:

            When is the last time Chrysler, in any of its many corporate forms, engineered its own, mass produced car platform? No, not some re-bodied Mitsubishi, or Benz, or Fiat. An actual real car platform that sold in actual quantities.

            Decades. Decades and decades. Cannot do it to save their lives.

          • 0 avatar
            MLS

            Well that’s just the point: the LX cars aren’t re-bodied Benzes. When they were launched and DCX was keen to advertise the German engineering, something like 25% of the components were Mercedes-derived. Today’s second-generation cars obviously have even less in common.

            Before LX, Chrysler engineered its own platforms for large (LH), midsize (JA/JX/JR), and compact(PL) cars. All sold in respectable numbers.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            How can a car company be American if it hasn’t been able to engineer a car in America for >20 years?

          • 0 avatar
            MLS

            The LX cars were largely engineered in America, even if some subsystems weren’t homegrown. The second generation cars even more so.

          • 0 avatar
            Maymar

            VoGo, I don’t need to delude myself with anything, I’m not a rabid Mopar loyalist, just a pedantic Aspie dick. If you can provide a more credible source than Allpar (because I won’t deny bias there), have at it

            http://www.allpar.com/history/interviews/burke-brown-lx.html

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          It should be pretty obvious that in this context, “American car” is a reference to vehicles produced by what was called the Big 3.

          So the Ford Falcon isn’t included even though it’s a Ford, nor would Alfa Romeo be included even though the same parent company builds Chargers and Challengers. It’s not that tough to grasp, no need for all of the drama.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          Legal definitions of import and domestic hinge upon the soil that the factory is built upon not the flag of head office.
          With that being said, Americans have traditionally viewed any foreign badge as an “import” regardless point of manufacture.

          In Canada, I encounter many people that follow the USA lead and call any vehicle not USA based an import. The worst offenders are Harley fanatics.

          My F150 and Sienna are both imports. Both were built in the USA and imported into Canada.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Japan has non-tariff barriers that help to limit market share for the European automakers. The Americans, not so much.

    That being said, one basic issue is that Japan’s kei car rules provide Japanese automakers with a segment that can be expected to have no meaningful foreign competition. As the country has little space and no oil, it is understandable that the Japanese would support that market.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      But a country like South Korea also has no oil and even less space and not only have the Europeans been thriving (putting aside the VW diesel scandal), the Americans have been very aggressive about increasing market-share.

      That being said, the Korean auto market doesn’t exactly parallel Japan’s – while there is a market for small cars, large sedans (and increasingly crossovers) are popular (there is a market for large sedans in Japan as well, but mostly luxury), hence, the Korean market being the only one where the Impala is being exported.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        I don’t think that Japan spends much time worrying about South Korea’s attitude toward kei cars.

        In any case, South Korea has vehicle import tariffs, while Japan does not, and neither country has much import penetration.

        • 0 avatar
          James2

          “In any case, South Korea has vehicle import tariffs, while Japan does not, and neither country has much import penetration.”

          I’ve read some articles where Hyundai-Kia’s share of the local market has fallen considerably because of imports… plus, fwiw, I saw lots of German cars on the streets of Seoul.

        • 0 avatar
          bd2

          Didn’t say anything about Japan worry about SK’s attitude towards kei cars (don’t think the Koreans even think about them at all, they just prefer larger sedans, much like the Chinese).

          As for import tariffs, SK has no tariffs on auto imports with 2 of the largest producers of autos (the EU and the US) due to FTAs; not to mention, the US, Canada and the EU also having auto tariffs.

          And there’s a reason why overseas auto-makers (including the Americans) show up at the Seoul/Pusan Auto Show when they don’t for the Tokyo Auto Show – they see much more promise in continuing to see market-share gains in the Korean market.

          Last year, Mercedes hit the 6k monthly sales mark in Korea (6,400 in Oct.) on the strength of the new E Class, usurping BMW which had traditionally been the leader (BMW’s did 5.4k that month – so the 2 did nearly 12k in sales in a month) among the European lux makes.

          With the new 5 Series launching, BMW might very well retake its crown (the Korean market is so important and profitable for BMW that they built their first Performance Driving Center in Asia in Korea and not Japan or China).

          In 2015, nearly 23k luxury car imports costing over $85k were sold in Korea and imports, overall, made up over 15% or 220k of the market; in 2015 (50k were imports from the US).

          Compare that with the 6% or so import penetration of the Japanese auto market, of which only a few thousand were American imports and the Europeans only having a 20% slice of the luxury market with engines of at least 3.0L (where in Korea, it’s more of a 50/50 split).

          And that’s just imports, and not including foreign (or foreign owned) brands like GM/Chevy, Renault-Samsung and Ssangyong (where sales of foreign or foreign owned brands exceeded 500k).

          Chevy had 3 models among the top 25 best sellers in Korea this past month (Spark – #8, Malibu – #13, Trax – #23) and Renault-Samsung had 2 in the top 20 with another new model, the SM3, is expected to join the other 2.

          From the June-to-December period last year, taking out the taxi fleet LPG variant, the Renault-Samsung SM6 and Chevy Malibu were the best selling mid-size sedans in Korea, selling 31,843 and 30,364, respectively, compared to the 23,751 for the Sonata.

          For that time period, the Malibu and SM6 had 65.5% of the ICE midsize sedan market while the Optima and Sonata had only 34.5%.

          In addition, the larger Impala has done very well for GM in Korea (being the only market where the Impala is exported and in its 1st year of sale, there wasn’t enough supply out of the 5k allocated for the Korean market to meet demand) and
          GM sold out of the initial 300 shipment of the Cadillac CT6.

          So sorry, no – the 2 auto markets are nearly the same as you make it out to be.

  • avatar
    Tstag

    The Japanese will buy foreign, they buy German and I have seen some British cars there too. So maybe Ford and co should buy European to get into the US market.

  • avatar
    kurtamaxxguy

    The Chinese appear to be warming up to huge USA SUV’s and performance vehicles like Ford’s Raptor. What those vehicles’ll do to their climate’s unknown. It will offer USA auto makers an opportunity to make mucho bucks.

  • avatar
    DrGastro997

    Hate seems a bit harsh. American car makers had massive opportunities to sell their brand to the Japanese market. Just about every Japanese car maker assisted American brands to sell in Japan. Example the “Toyota” Cavalier. Toyota made over 100 different quality modifications to help push sales. It still failed because GM refused to integrate improvements and kept on giving Toyota pieces of shit. Same goes for Saturn, Cadillac, Chrysler, Ford. I’ve lived in Japan for many years. The Japanese consumer is very patient and forgiving. They’ll buy American if only they are qualitative and have a solid dealer network.

  • avatar
    bikegoesbaa

    Do the US automakers still try to sell LHD cars in RHD countries?

    Don’t complain about the market being unfair when you’re not even willing to put the steering wheel where the buyers expect it to be.

  • avatar
    Varezhka

    Actually, left-hand drive cars haven’t been considered prestigious for decades, now that all European makes brings in right-hand drive cars designed/optioned to match Japanese taste.

    At the very core of it, the issue Detroit had is the same as that here in US. Instead of making the effort to serve the customers, the companies tried to use lobbying as a primary weapon to gain advantage over the years. Import restrictions and rules favoring light trucks here, Emissions/safety exemptions and (in past) forcing Japanese domestic car companies to sell their cars in Japan.

    You can only rig rules so much, and no sane person will buy a Cadillac CTS with a steering on the wrong side for 70K USD (20K more than a 5-series in Japan).

  • avatar
    GoHuskers

    ” not quite two thousand miles away from Japan, Chinese consumers are becoming…”

    The author needs a geography lesson…or two.

  • avatar
    OldManPants

    Japanese are just too little to see out of our cars.

    Jeez, Drumpf… mountain molehill, moron.

  • avatar
    fishiftstick

    “With a billion extra people and a willingness to buy from foreign automakers, China seems like a much more lucrative place to focus North America’s export efforts than the Pacific Islands.”

    Unless of course there’s a trade war. But no one wants that, right?

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Detroit never made any effort in Japan. The domestic product of today is much better than the old reputation that most Japanese probably have but there has been no effort made to change it. Frankly, with the boom in China, they should go where the money is.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Agree VoGo there is little to be gained by increasing sales in Japan. China and the rest of Asia is where the growth is. Japan has an aging population and has very closed immigration. The growth potential is stagnate in Japan. China on the other hand is more receptive to American brands and has a deep distrust and hatred of Japan that goes back much further than WW II. The Japanese economy has stagnated since 1992. Go where the growth is.

  • avatar

    This is one of several reasons why I refuse to buy a Japanese car. On a trip throughout the country back in 2013, I noticed that about 95% of the cars on the road were local name brands; Toyota, Mazda, Suzuki, Honda, Nissan, Daihatsu, etc. The remaining 5% were mostly the European marques; VW, BMW, and Mercedes had a small grasp on the market.

    Granted, the kei car is specially designed for Japan’s narrow streets, taxation laws, and they are extremely popular for that reason. No foreign makers have made an effort to offer a vehicle designed for Japan, and Japan only. We enjoyed the Mazda AZ Wagon and Suzuki Altos we rented were perfect for scooting around the country, and I see the appeal.

    But we didn’t see a single Ford, or Chevy, or Dodge during the two weeks we were there. None….zippo…..zilch. And it made me contemplate how unbalanced it is that we buy millions of their cars, but they don’t buy ours. I can’t fully blame tariffs, and a lot of it is due to the cars not being designed for local needs. But with the knowledge that they don’t help our local manufacturing, I buy American from now on

    • 0 avatar
      ect

      “they don’t help our local manufacturing”? Gee, I thought that all of the major Japanese auto companies had manufacturing facilities in North America. Some of them have more than one…

    • 0 avatar
      Notmyname

      festiboi.

      Here is a chart showing the Japanese automakers manufacturing investment in 2015.

      http://www.jama.org/japanese-automakers-2015-production-chart/

      Yes, their is a huge difference in market share, but it is absolutely not because “they don’t help our local manufacturing”

      Truth is, Ford and GM were in Japan before Toyota, Honda, etc, were even successful. Japan made laws that made it possible for their domestic brands to grow and become a sustainable companies. Those laws limited how many cars can be imported by other car companies, and they might be outdated now, maybe even unfair. But, even if the were to change the laws to make it easier for imports, the market is totally saturated, Not to mention, by far, the largest segment is subcompact cars that have small margins and are not very profitable. Overall it’s just not worth the investment for the american manufacturers.

      When Ford’s CEO Fields complains about a closed market, just know, he’s just hoping for the government to help step on the Japanese manufacturers, because they are typically more profitable from being ran much more efficiently. And, that really says more about Toyota and Honda as global companies more so then Japanese OEM’s Nissan was a mess before being taken over, Suzuki left the american market, Daihatsu was a failure, and Mitsubishi was headed that way until Nissan stepped in.

      • 0 avatar
        stingray65

        The Ford Model T absolutely dominated sales in Europe and Asian, and various regulations and taxes were implemented to help local producers and push the Americans out prior to WWII. Higher fuel taxes and crowded/narrow roads have kept out “too large” American cars since that time even as many of the “protection” regulations were relaxed. Europe and Japan have also traditionally made it very difficult and expensive to build dealer networks by not allowing domestic brand dealers to piggyback a foreign brand as in the US (i.e. where a Buick dealer could also be a Datsun dealer). No American brand is perceived as attractive/prestigious compared to the Big 3 Germans (who also make right hand drive versions for the UK/Oz/etc.). Since car sales in Japan have been in decline for years as the car driving population shrinks, it would be virtually impossible for US brands to profitably break into the Japanese market today, even though there are now few regulatory barriers.

    • 0 avatar
      mik101

      @fiestiboy
      I had a U built Honda Civic Coupe that was bought in Canada.
      Sure held up better than my friends Neons and Cavaliers at the time. How’s that for your buy American? Seems to me that all of the VINs starting with 1 gave Americans jobs, no?

  • avatar
    Joss

    They don’t like you because you dropped two atom bombs on their country. If American history included two nuclear strikes would you love the country? Think about it.

  • avatar
    ccode81

    Zillions of Japanese including myself keeps buying and renewing iPhone, we love it. Apple dominates the smart phone market more than anywhere else in Japan.
    Unfortunately that doesn’t help to re balance trade deficit between two countries nor help American manufacturing.

  • avatar
    Spartan

    We don’t need tariffs. Americans need to start buying American cars. Not just trucks. Cars.

    It boggles my mind why a foreign manufacturer holds the crown for best selling car. So many of these jack holes screaming ‘Murica have foreign iron sitting in their driveway.

    We don’t need to be nationalist in a hateful and spiteful sense. We need to take pride in our products that are homegrown. The best selling car should be the Fusion or Malibu, not the Camry.

    • 0 avatar
      Notmyname

      The average age of new car buyers is 56. That means that most buyers have plenty of experience with the bad quality of American cars from the 70’s through the 90’s. As much as they have improved in reliability and quality since then, that reputation is hard to change, (hence the lack of demand in Japan)

      The American car makers did this to themselves.
      Instead of worrying about national pride, we should be knowledgable about how these are all “Global” companies. At this point there isn’t much different between Ford and Honda, or GM and Toyota. For instance, Honda changed their official corporate language to English, because the majority of their employees are english speaking, only about 30% of employees spoke Japanese.

      • 0 avatar
        OldManPants

        “The average age of new car buyers is 56. That means that most buyers have plenty of experience with the bad quality of American cars from the 70’s through the 90’s.”

        The gist.

        One doesn’t forget the gassy smell of Eau de Chevrolet nor the percussion ensemble that was Chassis by ChryCo.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      There’s obviously a disconnect. A good friend of the family (when I was a kid) was a WWII Veteran that hated all Japanese with a passion. But he had no problem buying new Hondas and Toyotas, exclusively.

      Americans don’t exactly think on a national level. They mostly think of themselves. Me, I love all Japanese people, same with German, Korean, British, etc.

      But I’m American and I’ve always given Detroit metal, first crack at my money. Keep your dollar “local” as much as possible. Common sense. Support your neighbors, so they’ll have more to support you.

      I’ve never bought anything else, knowing or thinking: “I’d rather push my XXXXX, that drive an import… ” Except I’ve had extraordinary good luck with American cars and trucks (even Malaise Era!), rivaling the best imports. And there’s obviously plenty of vehicles American (Detroit based) automakers are best at.

    • 0 avatar
      ect

      “Americans need to start buying American cars. Not just trucks. Cars.”

      Well, Spartan, they do. The Camry was designed specifically for the North American market, is assembled in the US and iirc has more US content than most of the vehicles sold by GM, Ford and Chrysler.

      • 0 avatar
        iNeon

        Second generation Chrysler 200 was the most American passenger car available when it was released– that is part of the reason it failed. There was next to no profit margin because of this.

        That car had something like 92% American parts content, if I’m recalling correctly.

  • avatar
    Big Al From 'Murica

    Everybody talks like America is some sort of anomaly with respect to there like of US made cars. I made note when I went through Germany, Belgium, the U.K., and France. The Germans vastly favor German makes, the Belgians and French prefer French makes it seems and the U.K. Was a mixed bag with a lot of Fords.

  • avatar
    RobbieAZ

    Japanese cars are boring and ugly and there are far too many of them on the roads and that’s mainly why I don’t buy them. We used to only buy American vehicles but switched to German premium brands last year for both of our cars. There really isn’t an American car brand that competes in that arena aside from Cadillac and they just aren’t the same.

  • avatar
    RobbieAZ

    @OldManPants
    “Don’t ever change but *do* keep commenting for the nyuks.”

    What, I’m not allowed to think that Japanese cars are ugly and boring and I’m somehow bad for not wanting to drive what everyone else drives? Wow.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    @VoGo–The fact that Honda does export from the US to Japan does not disprove my point. The population in Japan is declining and there are fewer of the younger generation to take the place of retiring workers plus Honda is a Japanese Corporation which also manufacturers in Japan. Toyota does the same thing as well. The US in the past has had a more open immigration system but presently that is up for debate. There have been numerous articles on the aging population and the very limited immigration policy in Japan. There are Koreans and other Asians that have lived and worked in Japan for decades who cannot get citizenship even if they want to. A shortage of workers with unionized plants in Japan make it less expense for the Japanese to produce in the US, Canada, and Mexico in their non-unionized plants. Additionally it is much easier for a Japanese based company to import products from one of their foreign plants. The Japanese might not have the tariffs but they have lots of regulations that make it very costly and almost impossible for a foreign entity to export to Japan let alone do business there. I am not being anti-Japanese I am just stating the facts. Also Japan has mandatory inspections.

    “One of the first things an American motorist might notice about Japan is that the automobiles here all seem so shiny and new, without smashed headlights, dents, rust or even dirt.

    The reason is only partly that Japanese fastidiousness extends to the maintenance of cars. Rather, experts say, there really are relatively few old cars in Japan, because of an automobile inspection system that is so onerous and expensive that many people prefer to trade in a perfectly good three- or five-year-old car rather than spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars for the inspection.

    The inspection system, critics say, is a case study of the regulations in Japan that benefit businesses at the expense of hard-pressed consumers. It is the type of regulation that Japan’s new Government is promising to relax as part of a major effort to improve living conditions. Consumer Group Complains

    “The people who profit from this are maintenance shops and car makers,” said Fumio Matsuda, head of the Japan Automobile Consumers Union.

    Japan’s 83,000 garages obtain 44 percent of their roughly $60 billion in annual revenues as a result of mandatory inspections. Automobile companies benefit because people replace their cars frequently.

    Inspections are required when a car turns 3 years old, then every 2 years until the car turns 11, then every year. The inspections, which cover more than 100 items from brake function to headlight orientation, are done by a Government test center or by an authorized service station.

    Other nations and many states in the United States also require inspections, either of emissions alone or also of the car’s functioning, but Japan also requires car owners to have certain items checked or serviced every 6 months, 12 months or 24 months. ” http://www.nytimes.com/1993/09/12/world/why-the-cars-in-japan-look-just-like-new.html

    Japan basically guarantees their Japanese based automobile manufacturers a market with these mandatory inspections. The US does not and most of the European nations do not have a policy this stringent. At least in Germany consumers were offered a Cash for Clunkers for several years to get older vehicles off the road and to stimulate car sales.

    VoGo you need to look at the entire picture as to why it is not feasible for most US businesses to do business in Japan. Japan is not a growing country and has a more limited market with not a lot of future potential. China even with is regulations has a growing population and a growing middle class. There are over 300 million Chinese that are either middle class or above which is equal or more than the entire population of the US. Given these facts where do you think is the best market to put resources in? This is not real hard to figure out.

  • avatar
    Eyeflyistheeye

    If FCA brought back the 1990’s Dodge Ram Wagon and GM the Astro/Safari, they’d be dominating the Japanese sales charts.

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