Trump Wants More U.S. Cars Sold In Japan, But Buyers Are Shunning Them

President Donald Trump wants U.S. carmakers to sell more vehicles in Japan, but there’s not much he can do to improve the current situation.

Bloomberg reports that only 0.3 percent of the 3.2 million cars sold this year in the Asian country were made by American companies, even though Japan doesn’t impose tariffs on auto imports.

In comparison, Japanese brands are doing much better in the United States, where they hold a 40-percent market share despite America’s import tariffs of 2.5 percent on cars and 25 percent on trucks.

There’s obviously a big trade imbalance between the U.S. and Japan when it comes to automobiles, but the problem can’t be solved through tariffs. The hard truth is Japanese buyers simply don’t want American cars.

Consumers there see U.S. vehicles as too big and inefficient in a market dominated by city cars and other frugal models built locally. Imported cars make up only about seven percent of Japan’s overall passenger car sales, and German manufacturers get the lion’s share — the biggest five importers are from the European country.

For example, Mercedes-Benz and BMW together sold more than 70,000 vehicles in Japan in the first eight months of this year. Jeep, the best-selling U.S. brand in the Asian country, sold just 7,000 units during the same period. However, that was more than all other American marques combined.

That’s a reality President Donald Trump appears to ignore (willingly or not) as he strives for better access to Japan for U.S. cars. On Wednesday, he announced an agreement with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to start trade negotiations between the two countries. Previously, he threatened to slap a 25 percent tariff on Japanese car imports in a bid to encourage carmakers to build more vehicles in America instead of shipping them from Japan.

  • Christian

    No, I don’t wanna comment on it…

    • Mr. EP9

      But you just made one.

      • Christian

        you made me!

        • Ryan50

          He made you comment without your consent.

          • Mr. EP9


          • Christian

            he is just made because i’m somewhat black…

          • PB

            Somewhat? You mean Obama kind of Black?

          • Christian

            I mean Rachel Dolezal black!

  • Mr. EP9

    That ship has sailed some time ago.

    • Christian

      shame they forgot their orange zoo monkey.

  • Ilbirs

    The majority if not all American cars fall under the heaviest tax category on Japan, the popularly called “Class 3”, due to the first number of the license plate. This category fits everything that is longer than 4.70 m/185 in, wider than 1.70 m/66.9 in, taller than 2 m/78.7 in and displacing more than 2 liters. Every measure that passes these values makes a car fall on this tax category. As can be seen, even Euro models can be put on the “Class 3”, specially these new small cars that are bloated and as wide as used to be models one size above.
    The best selling cars in Japan are the so-called “Class 5”, that encompasses everything that is up to 4.70 m/185 in long, 1.70 m/66.9 in wide, 2 m/78.7 tall in and displacing up to 2 liters. No surprise that the widths of a Nissan Versa or a Honda Fit are very near this upper limit, as they were designed with these standards in mind.

    • john1168

      THIS! I’m in Narita Tokyo right now and I’m looking at the cars going by out of my hotel window while reading this article. It’s not that US cars are crap or don’t have enough tech, it’s the size of the vehicles and the sizes of the engines and how much tax it’s gonna cost the Japanese consumer. THAT’S IT! Simply, the US doesn’t make what the average Japanese consumer wants and can afford, so…. they don’t buy the product. Some small roads, limited parking in cities, high fuel prices and high taxes depending on what vehicle you buy…

      • Michael_66589

        That’s right. I know many people in Europe which will love to drive US Car but they cant afford it, without ruining home budget.

        • Ilbirs

          The problem for Europe is that the average car a citizen of this continent is driving is becoming a bloated thing generation after generation and this for sure will lead to a dimensional cutting some time. The current D-segment model of today (Mondeo, Passat etc.) is as big as it was a midsize American car that this Euro citizen would consider too big (the original Ford Taurus, for example), while a C-segment model now can be bigger in every external dimension than a D model from a not so far past (Ford Sierra, BMW E46 3-Series, Opel Vectra B and other ones that were rationally dimensioned), not to say about the B-segment ones that are as big as the C models when they used to have more reason on their designs (Mk3 Golf, Mk1 Focus etc.). When seeing these new bloated models, you can notice big and wide rim-tire sets that eat so much space that bigger wheel wells are needed, leading designing teams to widen and stretch those models comparing to previous-gen ones if they want these bloated ones to be as roomy as their predecessors.
          For me it’s not a surprise to see that the SUV craze hit even Europe. Maybe the lay customer that wouldn’t care more about cars than something that goes from A to B saw on the SUVs a way to go against bloating by using is given by the market, trading off some center of gravity in exchange for less length, as SUVs use to be shorter than a sedan underpinned by the same platform (for example, a SWB Tiguan compared to a recently released Mk7 Jetta). As their H points are taller than than the one found in a conventional car, the seating position also runs around the bulkiest part of those wheel wells that take so much room, leading to better room for this shorter length.

          How the bloating trend will be countered? Maybe when electric cars become popular, specially those that are made without ICE designing parameters, like Jaguar I-Pace. By what I read about VW’s MEB platform, one of its goals is the amount of room by its overall dimensions, with the soon to be realeased Neo being as big as a Golf outside but as roomy as a Passat inside.

          • Perry F. Bruns

            We built bloated cars first, and have been trying to shrink them, but some people insist on buying the biggest hunks of metal they can drive. And now it’s catching on in Europe.

      • Ilbirs

        I say that this way of designing cars gets fans even very far from Japan. I’m from São Paulo, Brazil, and in my city there are also some streets which width wouldn’t make them out of place if they were in a Japanese city. A car designed under the “Class 5” standards manages very well not only these streets but also the traffic jams due to its less width. It’s no surprise for me to see that the Fit sells in some good numbers here in my country despite Honda putting in it a profit margin that would be applied in premium cars in other nations than mine. I’m also not surprised to see so many Versas (named Latio in Japan) being used by taxi or Uber drivers.
        The legislators that stipulated this dimensional set were very wise when choosing width, for example. 1.70 m/66.9 in allows for someone regularly sighted to see the opposite A pillar with the peripherical vision instead of turning the neck a bit, something that eases a lot when changing lanes. For sure that, if a project team doesn’t know how to make a ride up to 4.70 m/185 in long good on legroom and luggage space, the problem resides within the project team instead of the given length. I’ll again talk about the Fit and the Versa/Latio, as their designers used very wisely the “Class 5” dimensional set, but for sure there are other examples of good use of these standards, like some JDM models.

        I’m against this bloating trend that took auto industry to a point that we’re seeing some Euro B-segment models being bigger in every external dimensional than a C-sized one of some years ago. The way Japan deals with this is very good, as it’s not an imposing measure but a kind of stimulation, as if the legislator was saying “there’s the dimensional set that leads to less taxes and you are free to create everything that falls under these given length, width, height and displacement. What you take from this isn’t our problem but we hope you’ll take the best”.
        It’s no surprise to see some interesting things that came from these “Class 3” requirements, like those fantastic B16A powered Civics, the three Fit generations, some strange models like the Toyota Spade, the narrow versions of Toyota Hiace and Nissan NV350, the AE86. It’s the kind of restriction that in practice stimulates creativity to a point that you wouldn’t miss a “Class 3” model because your “Class 5” one does everything so well due to project teams that had to extract the most from those standards.

  • LJ

    The Japanese are some of the most nationalistic people on Earth.

    • Javier Bl

      Would you drive a minicar of 3.4 meters of length with a 660cc engine in US? That´d be like driving a 5 meter SUV in Japan, pointless.

    • Jason Panamera

      Americans should build some kei cars, then Japanese will buy more murica cars.

      • Kei cars is really a curse and a bless, Japanese manufacturer hate it because they need to spend a lot of R&D for cars that they can only sold in Japan, but at the same time it was a best seller in the country, if you see it majority of big manufacturer only rebadge kei car from other company.

        • Perry F. Bruns

          And that’s the thing. If they caught on here, Japanese manufacturers could build them for the U.S. market in U.S. factories, which would avoid shipping costs and some import taxes.

    • In terms of car, I didn’t think so. Japanese has some fond towards a lot of foreign cars, particularly European. US cars has their own golden age, nack in 60s-70s American luxobarge is quite a seller and so does Pontiac Trans Am. But now US manufacturer had a little product that would appeal to Japanese market.

  • Sure, Toyota, Honda, Nissan, etc., will export their cars manufactured in the US to Japan. Unfortunately most American cars are junk, except for specialty cars such as the Corvette, Dodge Demon, Mustang, Camaro, etc., and there is a small following for these cars in Japan.

    • Yeah exactly, US can’t compete in terms of mass market cars, but they can in specialty cars, like the Chevrolet Astro, Dodge Van, American luxury cars in 60s-70s, Pontiac Trans Am.

  • Joe Langan

    There’s also the small matter of most US manufacturers (bar Jeep) not making their cars in RHD

    • Matt

      In Japan it’s legal to own a LHD car, about half of the Mercedes I saw in Tokyo were LHD (it’s almost like a status thing for wealthy owners).

      But still a relevant point that most potential buyers would prefer RHD in a RHD market.

    • Actually if you look at it, a lot of US cars had RHD, 300C for example, Dodge Journey and now Mustang. Chevrolet are always selling their GM Korea product and Ford are always selling their European product in RHD Asian market.

      • Joe Langan

        The Chrysler 300 is ancient at this stage but I see it’s still on sale in Australia, so it’s a US car in RHD alright. RHD Dodges are no longer manufactured and haven’t been for 4-5 years, the Mustang is RHD alright but Ford pulled out of Japan last year. And Korean cars don’t sell well in Japan, even with an American badge.

        The fact is that American cars just aren’t good enough for Japan (or indeed most of the world) and most of the swill that passes for automobiles there would be laughed out of a European showroom, never mind a Japanese one. Having the steering wheel on the left is almost a side issue – and as someone else already said, there’s a tradition of ordering foreign cars in LHD anyway.

        • I’m just pointing out which US cars that RHD is still available, and Dodge Journey is still sold as an RHD in Australiasia.

          And like I stated here, they should have focused on high margin specialty product rather than trying mass produced cars.

  • blunt-o

    Why on earth would I buy an American car when I can buy a Toyota or a Subaru or a Mazda, and at the same time benefit my country’s economy if I were Japanese. Hell, I’m American and I stopped buying American junk 40 years ago.

  • Matteo Tommasi

    USA manifacturers sell well only in US (maybe China), guess why? 6liter 350bhp is what europe made in the ’60s, japan never went that low

  • FlameWater

    You already dropped the bomb on Hiroshima do you really wanna inflict pain and misery on innocent people again?

    • Holden Ute

      I just spat out my water

    • haji

      Please don’t forget Nagasaki. Please.


  • Raul


  • XtremWize

    The problem is that the rest of the world knows that most American cars are crap.

  • Six_Tymes


  • Сафиуллина-Мохамед Рамазанов

    By logic the Americans not having what they can sell it in Japan and not found
    If we go brand by brand we can obviously see that

    (Volt & Bolt) maybe the new Blazer , Camaro and Corvette may be better in Europe


    XT4, XT5, ATS

    Nothing can fit

    Kuga & Focus

    Out of fit


    Out of fit

    Only Jeep and especially the Wrangler and that’s already happened

    • That’s the thing, for market like Japan, they should go at high profit specialty car, like muscle car or vans.

  • Jason Panamera

    Oh gosh. Japanese brands are making cars which suits American’s taste. I see no American’s making kei cars or reliable cars…

  • haji

    Yeah, Tell us something that we didn’t know.

  • Craig

    The problem is… the Japanese don’t want American cars and Canada doesn’t want American dairy.

  • DGC

    Size matters…

  • Trackhacker

    American cars suck. Nobody wants them…not even most Americans



  • Moisted

    When are people going to admit… American cars SUCK!!!…. Most vehicles in US are pickup trucks. Everyone else in the world hates pickup trucks. Big, inefficient, earth killing, ugly, pieces of crap. When are people going to admit….

  • Cobrajet

    Forget Japan, they don’t even drive real cars.

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