Why Buy Japanese?

With so many auto makers vying for your business, how can you sort through what’s best for you? This article is the second of an occasional series that details automotive attributes by nationality.

By Aaron Gold

Remember When Made In Japan Meant Junk? The Joke Was On Us!

When the first Japanese cars arrived on our shores in the late 1950s, Americans dismissed them as a joke — tiny, tinny, shoddily built and woefully underpowered. Determined to crack the American market, the Japanese embraced the teachings of American quality expert W. Edwards Deming, and Americans soon developed a taste for Japanese cameras and electronics. When the oil crisis hit in the early 70s, Americans once again turned to Japanese cars, which had grown more powerful and plush, but were still fuel-efficient and inexpensive. Americans were amazed by the quality, and by 1980 Japan was threatening to sink the American auto industry. In 2000, Japan became the largest producer of cars in the world.

Today, Japanese automakers retain their reputation for near-flawless build quality. Cars from the major Japanese manufacturers — Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mazda and Subaru, as well as their sub-brands Lexus, Scion, Acura and Infiniti — will usually deliver well over 100,000 miles of trouble-free service. In parts of the country where rust isn’t a problem, it’s common to find Japanese cars with 250,000 miles or more, still in good running order.

Are They Worth The Higher Price?

Japanese vehicles are generally more expensive than American or Korean cars, though not as pricey as cars from Europe. They also tend to have the highest resale values in the industry. In the past, pricing was subject to fluctuations in currency, but today most of the major Japanese automakers build their cars here in the United States, which keeps prices down and provides much-needed jobs for American workers. To be sure, the Toyota Camry is the best-selling car in America, and it’s built here in the good ol’ USA, by American workers.

Am I The Target Buyer?

Japanese cars are the perfect choice for buyers for whom quality and reliability are paramount, as well as drivers who like to keep their cars as long as possible. That said, while the Japanese do build some excellent performance cars, some auto enthusiasts say that lower-priced Japanese vehicles aren’t as enjoyable to drive as their European competitors. And while many Japanese cars are built in the United States, corporate profits (and taxes) still go overseas.

Reasons To Buy A Japanese Car:

Excellent quality, reliability and longevity, many are build in America, strong resale values

Reasons Not To Buy A Japanese Car:

Purchase and repair costs higher than domestics, may not be as much fun to drive as European models, profits go overseas

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One Response to “Why Buy Japanese?”

  1. Neal says:

    You fail to mention that Japanese cars have fallen off from being “cutting edge” as of late. Example: Ford and GM have had nearly all 6-speed automatics since 2009. Honda and Toyota still offer 4-speed and 5-speed autos in many models.

    Another area that Japanese vehicles lag behind all others: infotainment technology. OnStar has been out for over a decade (nearly two) and Ford Sync with voice-activated systems for phone, bluetooth audio, and USB has been out since 2007. The Honda lineup is only now getting a much less advanced system for the 2013 Honda Accord. That’s WAY late to the game.

    I also disagree about resale value and reliability. As for working in the automotive industry, I would say that you are factually incorrect about resale values. The Ford Fusion is the highest ranked midsize car in resale value according to Automotive Lease Guide. It’s also the most reliable vehicle in its class. Not to mention, that is the most sold class of vehicle outside of pickup trucks that there is.

    This brings me to my other point: resale value on Japanese trucks (with the exception of the Toyota Tacoma) is inferior to that of Fords, Chevrolets and GMCs, all American. A Toyota Tundra or Nissan Titan will bleed money far worse than a Ford. Also, Fords and Chevy trucks are typically more expensive than Toyota Tundras and Nissan Titans, so you were factually incorrect there as well.

    Also, your logic is flawed in thinking that vehicles with good resale value are for people who keep their vehicles a long time. That is the opposite of reality. Resale value really only should be an issue if you plan to sell your vehicle before it is paid off (typically in less than five years). The difference in percentages after 5-10 years of residual values of vehicles with similar MSRPs will be negligible after a long period of time. This is plain to see.

    Sorry, but I used to sell cars and this is a bunch of bologna. I worked at a dealership (now in administration of the group) that sold Toyota, Honda, Acura, Scion, Subaru (a ton of Subarus), and Lexus for imports, but also Ford, Chevy, Cadillac, and so on. Fords are the most expensive non-luxury brand by far and have some of the best resale value, especially for trucks.

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