Daihatsu is one of the oldest motor-vehicle manufacturers in Japan, though it's now a division of that relative newcomer, Toyota. On the streets of Japan today, you'll see Daihatsu kei cars and trucks everywhere (including such fine models as the Taft, Canbus, and Thor), but Daihatsu's foray into the North American market didn't go so well. When I saw a Daihatsu appear in the online inventory of an independent self-service yard south of Denver a couple of months back, I hopped in my kei van and got right over there to document it.
The Daihatsu Charade was available in the United States for the 1988 through 1992 model years, then was forgotten more quickly than the speed at which Darmstadtium-267 decays. Still, among the Daewoo Nubiras and Kia Rondos and Sterling 827s and other forgotten machinery at your typical California self-service junkyards, you’ll see a Charade now and then.
(Everybody welcome Ryan, who has been #blessed enough to own one of the most recherche Japanese cars of the last thirty years! — JB)
I’m not a monogamous guy, at least not when it comes to cars. Since my college years, I’ve consistently owned two vehicles at all times. The idea was to have a nicer, newer car for trips and weekends, then add an old beater to tackle the dull daily commute, run errands, and save wear and tear off the new car. After all, variety is the spice of life. It was also enjoyable to have a few choices depending on my mood in the driveway.
What a difference twenty years makes. The eighties was the Japanese decade, when they were going to take over the US, if not the world. They bought prime real estate assets like Rockefeller Center and Pebble Beach. They wrote books telling the US how to fix its problems. And their car makers were swamping the US like a tsunami. The last of the holdouts, Daihatsu, finally showed up on our shores at a rather inauspicious time: 1988, one year before the great Japanese stock market collapse. Did Daihatsu’s failure and retreat in 1992 have to do more with Japanese hubris in trying to sell a “BMW quality” Geo Metro, or was the Charade just an overpriced charade? Or is there a difference?
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