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Why are Japanese Cars So Good?

You only have to look at recent statistics to see how demand for Japanese cars in the UK has been rising. More than 350,000 vehicles made by Japanese manufacturers were registered in the first nine months of 2017 alone.

So what’s behind the runaway success? Fasten your seatbelt as we steer you through the reasons why we’re such Japanese aficionados when it comes to our cars.

Step Back in Time

History reveals some of the secrets behind the Japanese car industry phenomenon. Vehicle manufacturing in the land of the rising sun didn’t always have the enviable reputation it has now. 

After the Second World War, Japan’s economy was no match for its American counterpart. Toyota’s early days look pretty feeble. Only three thousand cars were made when Ford’s Detroit assembly line rolled off seven thousand vehicles a day. 

One of Toyota’s big difficulties was that it didn’t have enough cash. It needed more money to purchase all the stamping presses for each stage of the manufacturing process. It was having to use a single press to stamp all the different components. 

An Opportunity Born from Hard Times

Because Japan’s car industry used such basic methods it meant less could go wrong. The whole production operation could be halted when factory workers saw a mistake and then fixed it.

This was in stark contrast to mass-production lines where errors were only spotted once the cars had been produced. Many faults slipped through.

The upshot was a lean and mean Japanese approach which led to the creation of the Toyota Production System. The goal was to develop efficiency and reduce waste. The emphasis was on improving quality rather concentrating on quantity.

An irony of ironies, it was an American, W. Edwards Deming, who came to Japan to help rebuild the country after the war. He believed continued growth could be achieved with quality rather than high-volumes of vehicles.

The Mini Car or Kei car began life in the post-war era when many Japanese could not afford a larger vehicle.

The Rebuilding of Japan’s Car Industry

Root and branch changes needed to be made. Production lines were established near to those who supplied components. That cut down on time and transport costs and led to greater flexibility. 

Toyota concentrated on only making what the market needed and when it needed it. That reduced waste and it also drove down costs.

Consumers also started to demand better quality. There was a time when Ford’s detailed car manuals flagged up scores of problems the owner might have with their vehicles. They even provided the tools to fix them. 

Cars were becoming more sophisticated. The expectation that owners would even want to fix inherent problems with their cars became unrealistic. By now, Japanese cars simply had fewer flaws.   

Reliability and Technological Advances

To an extent, some countries are still trying to keep up with Japan’s aggressively efficient style of manufacturing. They’re still stuck with less modern production facilities and are based in poorer locations.

There are those who would argue that Japanese efficiency comes at a price. That’s because some feel that an emphasis on reliability meant new technologies were not embraced as fully as they could have been.

There have been issues that have beleaguered European and American cars. To an extent, these are a result of complex electronics and ambitious automated systems. There’s an argument those outside Japan might be compromising on reliability.

Instead, they’re concentrating on cars that are better kitted out, more economical and at the cutting edge of new technology. Obviously, there are exceptions, with both Toyota and Nissan pioneering new performance systems. 

Japanese Cars in the UK

By the 1970s and 1980s, Toyota, Datsun, and Honda were producing cars which no longer needed to be repaired at regular intervals. The whole concept of the product was different. 

Japanese car manufacturers were having a major impact on the UK market. Cars were beginning to be seen as synonymous with reliability. At the same time, production processes were being made more efficient. 

Japanese brands may have been more conservative when it came to taking on new technologies that weren’t proven to work. It’s this that has put them above the rest when it comes to reliability. 

There’s definitely a sense of honour that permeates right through Japanese culture. This reaches right down to the factory floor. Building a car which isn’t quite up to scratch would be seen as an embarrassing failure.

Reliable Used Cars 

Research has continually pointed to Japanese brands as being some of the most reliable on the marketwhen it comes to used cars. Honda and Toyota are often recommended for their perceived reliability.

Both score well in studies making them a good choice for a used car. People like their familiarity. Continued reliability means that drivers are more likely to recommend them to friends and family. 

Variety and Luxury

The history of the Japanese car manufacturers may point to more recent successes than their American and European rivals. That doesn’t mean that variety has been compromised when it comes to SUVs or sports models, for example.

The Toyota Land Cruiser is a superb SUV which boasts three rows of seats and a host of special features like a fourteen-speaker JBL sound system. 

Next check out the Lexus LC. It’s sleek and stylish and comes in two powerful variants. Both handle superbly mixing strength of acceleration with a fun kind of drive.

Produced in Japan, the Nissan GT-R offers the lap of luxury and a substantial amount of power under the bonnet. It comes with a 3.8-litre V6 engine. It’ll give you a ride that’s as fast as a sports car but has all-wheel drive. 

Japan makes some of the sleekest and most stylish cars available on the planet. Many of these and their iconic predecessors are available for import into the UK.

Innovation and Style

The Japanese car industry built its reputation on reliability ever since it exploded across the globe in the 1970s. It also continues to be at the forefront of great design and technology. 

You can read more here about some of the Japanese cars that continue to put the country at the cutting edge of car manufacturing.


  • Alan| 25th March 2019 at 8:11 am Reply

    I used to work for Ford of Europe and many top executives went to Japan to see car manufacturing at its best.

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