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Why are European automakers more successful in the Japanese market than U.S. ones?


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Two things.

Size and style.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

the cars are better. Period.

8 ( +12 / -4 )

Agreed...plus the badge value.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

They are more aimed at the prestige market and better than the Japanese at that. Japanse top of budget, small car and mid-range models.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

American cars are either huge "battletanks" or underfeatured Volts...

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Americas attitiude to motor vehicles, lets throw some parts at each other loosely and call it a car then lets sell that pile of parts to the unsuspecting, where as the europeans will assembly a car using precision engineered parts and assembled with care.

That and the simple fact that the euro cars are far superior in quality and style with a reputation built over years of making good cars.

The Japanese have seen and experienced american cars in the past and know they are large, unreliable, poorly made gas guzzlers with a terrible reputation that have no style.

Now if we were talking about classis and collectible american cars then that is a whole different ball game.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Ever watched Mr. Bean? That car does fit in tokyo streets. I can't see myself driving a Ford 450 or a Ford Navigator in Tokyo.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

well being way oversized gas guzzlers doesnt fit in with the Japanese likes, not to mention they depreciate much faster tha Japanese cars which is bad enough as it is. heres a though how about American makers make a car that Japanese want to buy, not trying to make them buy cars that Americans want to by, big difference

6 ( +8 / -2 )

The question is about the Japanese market. The comments about European cars having "better style" are irrelevant to the Japanese market, where people seem to prefer to drive a rectangle on wheels painted in various shades of white or gray.

-4 ( +5 / -9 )

Japanese domestic automobile manufacturers control around 95% of the total market.

Imports account for only 5%.

With such a small percentage for imports, I think it's pretty difficult to find a single reason. And the reason would probably not be very relevant to any foreign car manufacturer who wants more of the 95% share.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

The demographic loves sub-compact hatches better than any fuel guzzling V8s.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

and its really simple actually, when your own country makes the best cars in the world and they are readilly available, reliable, comfortable, economical, practicle, well featured, having leading technology, with high safety standards, easily serviced, cheap maintainence, affordable and sized right for the local roads why would anyone with half a brain cell want to buy a gas guzzling, unreliable, hulking, fuming, hunk of ill fitting together crud from across the pacific.

Toyota the biggest car maker in the world.

Toyota Corolla the worlds Number 1 selling car.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

To be fair, Ford do make the Focus which is small and pretty well equipped and the best (or almost the best) selling car in the world. But just doesn't have the prestige of BMW, Merc etc and can't compete on price in Japan.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

European cars are NOT successful in Japan. They account for only around 4% of the total, and their industry group has long complained of market barriers in Japan.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

European cars are prestiguous and if you want to be somebody in society, you'd better own a Benz.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I know many Japanese yakuza driving around in Tokyo etc..in black colored Mercedez Benz, with the windows all black too, so I guess Foxie is right! These guys are really somebody....in Kabukicho, Sukino Minami Osaka etc... Ayway, the USA is way too big, cars for the USA are way too huge for tiny Tokyo streets, alleys etc...try and drive a normal US Ford, Chevy etc..truck to haul your horses around back in Texas?? And say, try pulling them to your average Tokyo crap street, and you will either get stuck, knock down some light poles and a few houses and buildings along the way. So my guess, Europe and Japan are both over crowded older countries so they must have similar old, narrow roads and streets thus making little Fiats kind of like a cute Daihatsus etc...

1 ( +2 / -1 )

It used to be that the only people who drove big US cars were yakuza (as Elbuda Mexicano says). I don't have a car (I'm a "paper driver"), but friends who have rented US cars in the US say that the interiors are not "tight" (絞まっている感じがない) (I'm not sure if this English word is good in this context), whereas European cars, like Japanese cars, have a "tight" interior. Too many gaps and holes in a US interior.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Japan's passive aggressive / compliant attitude toward the U.S. is the reason. The markets are not open, and comparing European cars to U.S. cars is like comparing apples to violins.

You could only legitimately ask this question if the Japanese market was equally open to BOTH, which it's not.

If the market was truly open, then you'd find the car Japanese people would buy according to their own choices and economic conditions, and not any kind of engineered "Japanese products are superior" political nonsense.

-7 ( +3 / -10 )


To be fair, Ford do make the Focus which is small and pretty well equipped and the best (or almost the best) selling car in the world. But just doesn't have the prestige of BMW, Merc etc and can't compete on price in Japan.

Incorrect on two counts, Ford Focus is European Ford, and secondly it is no where near the best selling car in the world, that is held by, yup, you guessed it Toyota COROLLA.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Fuel economy is one of the most interesting difference. The size of the engine is also a big consideration since the larger your engine is, the more taxes you pay every year. Also, European cars are generally able to get more power out of a small engine than their American counterparts.

Styling is absolutely something to be considered. If you want a good looking car, go European. If you are looking of a nice convertible, you'll have to look at European cars as well.

Talking about how a real car should sound, American cars FTW.

Quality-wise, they all suck.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

C'mon, are we really asking this question?

US cars not exactly known for their build quality / reliability... (although I'm a massive fan of classic muscle cars)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Because at the end of the day, American cars suck. Poor quality, gas guzzlers, too big and often need repairs. No one in my family owns an American cars these day. Korean, German and Japanese all the way.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

One might ask why only two (both trucks) of the 15 most popular 'cars' in California are American.


-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Anyone here watched "Top Gear"? That tells you all you need to know about US cars... lol

3 ( +4 / -1 )

The only good American cars are the V8 muscle types just for sheer fun to tear up the streets, get the looks and the sound of the engine. The smaller cars suitable to compete with European cars are noisy, poor handling, boring, etc ......if you want these characteristics buy a Lada, its cheaper

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Because they have brand image, especially the German high-performance cars. The Japanese make great handbags too, but Louis Vuitton sells to the image-conscious.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

American cars are not even selling that well in the States, let alone in Japan.

What happened to Detroit?

Why don't they do a bit of market research and design cars for the Japanese market?

Gasoline is much cheaper in the U.S.A., so the need for fuel efficiency isn't quite as great. However, gas is more expensive in Europe, so, by and large European cars are more fuel efficient.

Many European cities have very narrow winding streets like Japan. European cars are designed to deal with this. Many American cars simply could not move in the back streets of Naha.

They have style and design.

The US car industry needs to wake up and move on.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

European cars are more "fashionable" than American cars and fashion is paramount in Japan. The quality of Ford and GM cars is on a par with European cars.

"American cars are not even selling that well in the States"

Go check the facts, Bertie, and then get back here and admit you're wrong about that.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )


I did check the facts, before I wrote that post.

Here you go:

Consider two main stories stemming from April 2013's list of America's 20 best-selling cars. First, the Honda Accord was the best-selling car in America in April 2013.

America's two top-selling cars both reported losses, as did nine other cars in the top 20.


14 of the top 20 best selling cars in the States are foreign cars. The top six are Japanese and Korean. If the US car industry wants to make inroads in Japan, they need some decent products that suit the conditions in this country.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

what really is a japanese car anymore? the honda civics of the US are built in Greensburg Indiana... by americans

but the overall riding factor to this topic is that 95% of the Japanese domestic car market is made up by the japanese companies... I wouldn't call 5% for imports successful at all, and it has to be mainly import luxury cars.. your BMWs, Mercedes, etc.

The US makers don't really do luxury besides Cadillac, and while I've seen a handful of Escalades in Japan, they tend to stay on the main roads.

Ford and GM are making inroads into China these days.. should probably avoid the Japanese market unless they want to try selling the Ford Focus, which is small enough to get around

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

European cars fare better than American cars in Europe too. That's because they, the former, are built for European roads and cities. Detroit has gone a long way to down-scale from boats to compacts and sub compacts over the last 50 years, but they haven't quite learned the rules of the game, with some exceptions, yet. Ame sha in Japan have retained their image, in spite of improvements, of being big, gas guzzling, expensive in maintenance and well, not cool looking. Some European brands have put a lot of effort in establishing a reliable dealership network for vehicles suitable to Japanese road conditions. Vehicles with good fuel economy, not too large and affordable to many people, looking cool as well. American cars haven't quite made it there, and are the makers really trying or do they just want a free ride?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I saw a Taurus in Ueno a couple of years ago, and it looked big even compared to the big Toyota police cars and even the Crown Comfort taxis. I've seen plenty of Jaguars, old and new Minis and even an old Rover in Tokyo, all which looked quite at home. Well, I'm used to seeing cars driving on the left with right hand drive so maybe that's why they looked at home to me.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I've seen plenty of Jaguars

How many is that? One in a thousand, ten thousand? Yes, I know, the cars you mentioned stand out. They look different, cool, you notice them. But their numbers are small.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Surprised (not really) to see such limited understanding of the international automotive market.

Toyota, GM, and VW are all very close in worldwide sales, with Toyota leading sales, but VW leading revenue. GM and Ford are adept at making smaller cars, as evidenced by their strong sales in developing nations. Focus started from Ford's European division, but is now designed in the US. While the Corolla is the top selling car in the world, Ford's two top selling cars (the Focus and Fiesta) are just about on par in terms of sales with Toyota's (Corolla and Camry). Bear in mind, these Fords are actually benefiting from Ford's partnership with Mazda.

I would say that the reason that US cars do not sell well in Japan is that they are often in direct competition with Japanese automakers and are not luxury items like some European manufacturers. VW is probably the most successful car company in the world, but have not had much success in the Japanese market either for this same reason. The same can be said for Korean automakers. In the US, Korean and US cars are often cheaper than their Japanese counterparts, giving them an edge in the value segment. In Japan, they would likely end up being more expensive than their generally superior Japanese counterparts.

Additionally, Japan is not a growth market and the price of setting up shop in Japan does not make it an attractive investment compared to other parts of the world.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

American cars are designed for the American market, with little consideration of what anyone else wants. If the American auto companies really wanted to compete in Europe and Japan, they would make cars that are smaller, more efficient, and at least in the same neighborhood as stylish. Having said that, the quality and fuel efficiency of mid-size American cars is now just about on par with the Japanese cars being sold here. (Meaning: I wish Honda would bring back really small, really high-mileage cars. Maybe something on par with an early-'90s Civic hatchback.)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Since the bail-out I won't buy GM or Chrysler. Supporting them just reinforces bad behavior.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Why? A very simple question. European cars are as good as Japanese ones in all points of quality. That's why they buy them . It seems that Japanese just don't like lower quality of cars and also one thing is that America auto makers pretend not to understand why Japanese don't buy such cars in Japan. Japan's auto market is completely open for imported cars and no tariffs for American cars in the first place.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

ya, prestige, the US cars have only a couple real prestige names, the rest are regular cars. Also the Euros make smaller cars, they also have old cities wi/ lots of sm streets.

Also- is metric vs standard measurements still a problem? for like bolt types and various maintenance?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

While I am usually not a big fan of American cars. I can say for most Americans, many just don't like the small cars and for our living standards, it doesn't suit or fit the needs of the average everyday American, perhaps if they live in the city and especially the big cities in particular California, you will see mostly Japanese cars and somewhere in between on the road, middle America, American. Many Americans that live in the countryside or work out in the field prefer trucks and that is one of America's strongest and most reliable cars, they are stronger, sturdier and more durable than the Japanese built trucks, although the Japanese trucks are NOT that bad. A Toyota Tacoma and Tundra are very good, but a Ford F150, nothing like it! The thing is built like a tank, perfect if you do construction and or have a farm. Campers are another thing that many American car makers make superbly well when you want to take the family on camping trips locally or across the country and lastly the Corvette. Those are just a few cars that many Americans like to have and would not for the most part trade them for a Japanese or European car. These cars just won't do it and can get the job done many of these people need done. I think the American car industry once a long time ago great classics and I do love to see them at the local car shows and being from Cali, we are a car culture nation, but the sad fact is a lot of the cars that the American Auto makers are churning out are very bad. When Obama bailed out GM, I thought it was the wrong thing to do. They should have let them file for bankruptcy and restructure the company. Look what happened to the VOLT. One of the worst disappointments of an American vehicle. It looked very nice until you saw underneath at what they put into the car, it wasn't worth the money.

Also- is metric vs standard measurements still a problem? for like bolt types and various maintenance?

No, it is NOT a problem at all. The airline industry also uses both systems.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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