Category: Japan

By on January 15, 2019

While it wasn’t covered during its North American International Auto Show debut, Toyota will build the 2020 Supra with a 2.0-liter, turbocharged inline-four, in addition to the big 3.0-liter motor we’ve already been promised. According to the manufacturer’s own Supra-centric website, the four banger will come in two flavors — 255 horsepower with 295 lb-ft or torque or a base mill capable of 194 hp and 236 foot-pounds.

Like the 3.0-liter inline six that premiered at NAIAS this week, the smaller Supra engines are also sourced from BMW. Thus far, neither are slated for the U.S. or Canada. Instead, they’ll be installed in the Japanese SZ-R and SZ-trimmed cars. But that doesn’t mean they won’t eventually reach our shores.  Read More >

By on May 1, 2018

In December of last year, Subaru and Japanese law firm Ohno & Tsunematsu opened an internal investigation to determine if employees tampered with fuel economy ratings for some of its Japanese-market vehicles. The issue arose in the wake of Nissan and Subaru being faulted for decades of improper final inspection procedures at specific plants. While the issue initially seemed relatively benign, subsequent interviews with Subaru employees resulted in confessions that “certain data with respect to fuel economy and emissions may have been altered” during the course of final vehicle inspections.

What originally appeared to be automotive employees taking bureaucratic shortcuts evolved into something a bit more serious. Subaru recently released the results of the investigation and has admitted to falsifying the fuel consumption data of 903 cars assembled at its Gunma Manufacturing Division and Yajima factory. However, the internal probe only encompasses December 2012 until November 2017. All data from before this period is mysteriously absent.

Interesting, considering the suspect employees claim the figure flubbing probably started around 2002.  Read More >

By on January 20, 2018

Nissan Go On Artisans naias 2018

Nissan introduced the Xmotion (pronounced Cross Motion) CUV concept at the NAIAS in Detroit the other day. The company says the Xmotion is inspired by the Yokahama-based automaker’s Japanese heritage, particularly the practice of traditional Japanese crafts.  The crossover is said to connect “traditional and modern Japanese craftsmanship and technologies.” Artisanal techniques such as weaving, metalsmithing, and woodworking were used to craft the interior of the Xmotion.

To emphasize that connection, master shokunins from Kyoto’s GO ON consortium of traditional Japanese artisans were brought to Detroit to demonstrate their skills to assembled media and the general public after the big auto show officially opened later in the week. Read More >

By on November 17, 2017

infiniti nissan factory japan

On Friday, Nissan Motor Co. blamed a shortage of key staff for improper final inspection procedures at Japanese assembly plants. The problem, which amounts to little more than not having having a specially certified technician give each vehicle a final once-over, has forced the automaker to recall 1.2 million vehicles within Japan this year. As the mandate applies only to vehicles sold on the nation’s domestic market, no exports to North America are affected.

However, that hasn’t stopped Japan’s government from coming down hard on the company for its bureaucratic misstep. After discovering that uncertified inspectors were signing off on vehicle checks required by the transport ministry, Nissan has been incredibly apologetic. It even launched a full-scale investigation, finding that “nonconforming final inspections” were commonplace by the 1990s at the plants, and could even have existed at one factory since 1979.  Read More >

By on November 8, 2017

Donald Trump, public domain

On Monday, President Donald Trump requested that Japanese automakers consider assembling their vehicles in the United States. “Try building your cars in the United States instead of shipping them over. That’s not too much to ask,” Trump told Japanese auto executives during this week’s visit. “Is it rude to ask?”

While the internet response was to immediately scoff at how little Trump knew about the industry (Japanese companies have been building automobiles in North America for decades), the reality was far more nuanced.

Taken in the broader context, Trump actually said, “Several Japanese automobile industry firms have been really doing a job. And we love it when you build cars — if you’re a Japanese firm, we love it — try building your cars in the United States instead of shipping them over. Is that possible to ask? That’s not rude. Is that rude? I don’t think so.” Read More >

By on October 27, 2017

infiniti nissan factory japan

Japan appears to be having a problem with its quality control. Nissan Group is conducting updated inspection procedures after details emerged that it allowed uncertified employees to conduct final vehicle checks. However, the Japanese government continues to find issues with the automaker’s practices, forcing it to temporarily suspend new vehicle registrations.

Early reports from an external investigation commissioned by Nissan suggest the certification problem may have begun in 1979.

Subaru faces a similar plight. With Nissan’s inspection issue looming larger than anticipated, Subaru has admitted to following improper procedures for its domestic products. On Friday, the carmaker said final inspections at its main plant have occasionally been handled by employees not listed as certified technicians. The problem has persisted for more than 30 years, according to the manufacturer.  Read More >

By on October 24, 2017

Toyota TJ Cruiser Concept

Toyota is parading the TJ Cruiser concept around the Tokyo Motor Show, taking the public’s temperature on how it might be received as a production model. The vehicle itself is an amalgamation of a traditional sport utility vehicle and ultra-practical cargo van. With an emphasis of being simple, rugged, and sensible, it’s everything a specific subset of enthusiasts have been clamoring for.

We already hinted at our approval of the general idea with our own Tahoe Grande concept — a hypothetical model merging the dynamic features of Chevrolet’s Tahoe SUV and the unparalleled practicality of the family-friendly Dodge Caravan. It was pure sex and so is the Toyota TJ Cruiser, sagaciously speaking. Read More >

By on September 19, 2017

toyota prius phv gr sport

Toyota is attempting to morph itself into an edgier, bolder, and sexier brand — to varying degrees of success. However, much of the company’s makeover has been purely cosmetic. The exception is Gazoo Racing, the automaker’s motorsport division and new in-house performance arm behind Toyota’s GR-series passenger cars.

Interestingly, Gazoo literally means “image” in Japanese and some of the upgraded models have been about little else. Still, some of the limited edition cars look like hoonable maniacs when compared to the base unit. The supercharged Yaris GRMN (Gazoo Racing Masters of Nürburgring) with over 200 horsepower is a prime example.

Aiming to go more mainstream, Toyota has decided to unfurl a range of GR and GR Sport models that won’t be handicapped by limited production numbers. Among them is the bewildering Prius Prime GR Sport, a hot hatch variant of the economy-minded hybrid. Toyota has officially lost its mind.  Read More >

By on September 5, 2017

suzuki alto works rs-r

Anyone with an interest in odd cars probably has at least a passing fascination with Japanese kei cars. As a member of that small subset of enthusiasts, I have a long-held fantasy that involves owning a Suzuki Alto Works, Daihatsu Mira Turbo, Honda Today, or Honda Acty. But the closest North America ever got was the i-MiEV, which Mitsubishi stretched a few inches to comply with U.S. crash ratings — nullifying its official status as a kei.

Sure, most kei cars are utter garbage from a driving perspective, but their utilitarian quirkiness and microscopic road-presence are difficult to replicate on anything other than a moped. They’re also stupidly affordable, which is one of the reasons they’ve persisted in Japan.

However, that’s beginning to change now that their home country has begun taxing them into extinction. The miniature breed, brought to life specifically so budget-minded motorists can have a vehicle and always find parking, lost roughly 25 percent of its yearly volume since Japan targeted them in 2014 — resulting in a sudden annual deficit of nearly 550,000 pint-sized vehicles.  Read More >

By on July 10, 2017

2018 Toyota Camry production line - Image: ToyotaAs all-new 2018 Toyota Camrys begin to trickle into Toyota’s U.S. dealers over the coming weeks, take a close look at the VIN.

It’s viewable through the windshield on the driver’s side. See that first number? It’s likely a 4, which means this Camry was built in Georgetown, Kentucky.

But there’s a chance that the VIN on the new 2018 Camry sitting on your local Toyota dealer’s lot doesn’t begin with a number at all.

You’re looking at the once-coveted J-VIN. Ooh la la. Read More >

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 >

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