Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Made In Japan

Back in the 80's "Made in Japan" was a running joke in the US. Much like "Made in China" is today. In the Styx song Mr. Roboto the robot was described in a line as "with parts made in Japan". There was also a line in the movie Strange Brew where a police inspector says to an officer "The whole world is made in Japan?", the officers' response "Could be sir".
The 80's was also the time when Toyota and Honda built some of the best quality cars ever made. Making Ford, Chevy and Chrysler look like the lemons they were. Japan's whole manufacturing philosophy was different and almost mysterious to us. The fact was they were doing it better than anyone. By the mid 90's the American people were finally convinced and started to become loyal Japanese car buyers. Some of the best selling models were the Honda Accord, Civic and Toyota Corolla, Camry.
Once we were all buying Japanese cars to our hearts content some changes in the economic world started to change. First Japan is a small country with few natural resources it became easier to open factories closer to the resources rather than ship them to Japan first, then ship the finished product out. Second import taxes made the cost of importing cars not price competitive with US domestic autos. Third, and this is just my opinion. The Japanese companies felt we as Americans would feel better about ourselves if the cars we were buying were built in our country by our employees.
Now my whole point to this post. I feel that the quality and workmanship that made these car companies succeed was lost in translation along the way. The American cars have caught up and the Hondas and Toyotas are at the same level of quality they were 15-20 years ago. I as a consumer no longer feel as confident in the quality of our US built Hondas and Toyotas. I would feel better about a Honda or Toyota purchase if the car was made in Japan. My Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution was assembled in Japan using 99% Japanese parts. Our Honda Pilot was built in Alabama. Guess which vehicle has had more quality issues. Our Japanese made 1996 Acura Integra was nearly bullet proof with no quality issues during our entire time of ownership.
The country of origin of an automobile used to say something about that vehicle. Whether it be German, Italian, British, America, Japanese, or Swedish. Now we have BMW and Mercedes factories in South Carolina and Alabama, Fiats made in Mexico, Hondas from Ohio. Personaly I want my Mercedes built in Germany, My Fiat from Italy and My MINI from England. I wish our automobiles reflected their national heritage more. I want to sit in the drivers seat and feel the national pride (or lack there of) of the people who built it.
The Suzuki Kisashi is built in Japan, Porsche still builds in Stuttgart Germany, Ferrari and Lamborghini are pure Italian, Lotus is British and lets give credit where credit is due, Kia and Hyundai are built in South Korea. For now.


  1. Hyundai and Kia have plants in Alabama and Georgia respectively.