Japanese Cars Suck!
As a hardcore Japanese car enthusiast, it pains me to write this. I have seen the Japanese car phenomena go full circle first hand. When I was a little kid adults used to snicker at the funny little weird crap boxes that were first imported from Japan by Datsun, Toyota and then Honda. The cars were small, underpowered and quirky. There were some standouts like the Datsun 240Z, the Toyota 2000GT and 510 that were pretty cool cars but for the most part, no one cared.
Then, the oil crisis hit in 1973. The newly formed OPEC oil cartel put an embargo on oil exports to the US and all of a sudden the days of cheap gas were over. Overnight, suddenly everyone cared about efficiency and fuel economy. The big three in Detroit were blindsided by the rise in oil prices as the free market price of crude oil rose from 3 dollars a gallon to 12 in one swift stroke.
In the background, the Japanese car makers Toyota, Datsun (Nissan) and Honda were quietly at work diligently improving their cars. The Japanese culture of Kaizen, which means continual improvement, and the national embracing of the process control doctrines of Edward Deming (the father of modern quality assurance) by all Japanese industry boosted quality to world class levels. This meant that the once scorned moniker, “Made in Japan,” started to mean superior products of the highest quality instead of cheap junk.
The Japanese car makers all set up US headquarters and started to study the US market in earnest and began producing cars that better suited American tastes. The Japanese added more power, features and luxury appointments that were still efficient. These second wave Japanese cars hit the market just as the the OPEC embargo fell. Suddenly the fat and arrogant Domestic automakers had competition!