Why do many Americans dislike Japanese cars?

Disliking Jap cars

I love 70s movies. One of the most famous comedy-action movies released in that period was The Cannonball Run. I remember a very funny segment of the first movie of that series where they featured a Japanese team. Of course they’re driving a Japanese car. What made the appearance of the Japanese team quite interesting was the fact that the engine of their car would make this whining noise. Now keep in mind that the noise didn’t sound like the car was about to blow apart. That’s a definite red flag. Instead, it made this whining noise as if there’s some sort of gear that was not adjusted properly. The running gag was that Japanese cars have slight flaws in operation or they’re simply not engineered right. Whatever the case may be, for the longest time prior to the 1970s, Japanese automotive products had a reputation of somehow being off or being not as good as old-school American automotive lines.

As it turns out, thanks to the Arab oil embargo and the oil and gas crunch of the 1970s, Japanese cars were not only able to perform at the same level as American cars, but in many significant and dramatic ways outperformed all American automotive products. This was due to the fact that the Japanese early on after the war adopted a quality control and quality assurance system pioneered by an American. Interestingly enough, this American quality control consultant and authority could not get any support in the United States. That’s how arrogant many American automotive giants were at that time. They didn’t want to be disturbed. They felt that the status quo was good enough as it was so there was really no incentive on their part to step up the quality of their offerings.

This proved to be the undoing, at least in the 70s, of the American automotive industry. When the American quality control guru went to Japan, he was embraced with open arms. Japanese car companies, from first-line supervisors to middle managers to the head honchos, like CEOs and COOs quickly adopted a quality mantra. They then put into place all sorts of quality control mechanisms that actually played out during production. This is a big deal because by and large, when people talk about quality assurance, they would talk about somebody who’s going through the assembled products after the production process has ended. As you can well imagine, such a strategy is probably going to leave the car company behind. They’re going to be a day late and a buck short. When the Japanese adopted this real-time quality control system, they dramatically reduced the amount of errors, bad engineering and other crucial labor-related problems with their products.

The end result was that the Japanese were able to produce higher quality products at a slightly lower price. Now given the fact that Americans all of a sudden became economically-minded due to the runaway inflation caused by the oil embargo in the early 70s, they started to flock to Japanese cars. In their minds, not only were these cars cheaper, but they were also more efficient in terms of gas and their overall quality was better than the stuff coming out of Detroit.

As you can imagine, this kind of situation would not last long. Eventually, American automotive manufacturers saw the handwriting on the wall, stepped up, and actually started to wean Americans back from imports. The domestic market started to fully recover. However, the disdain and suspicion many Americans had against Japanese products never really went away. This is the root cause of issues against Japanese car makes and models.

Ricehatersclub.com was started, believe it or not, due to a heated email exchange between two automotive fans.

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