Japanese Used Cars Emerging Market in the U.S. | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Japanese Used Cars Emerging Market in the U.S.

In the last 10 years, exports of Japanese used cars have skyrocketed 14-fold. Automotive journalist Kumiko Kato explains the circumstances behind this explosion in popularity.

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on LINE
Japanese Used Cars Popular in the U.S.
In recent years, Japanese used cars have become increasingly popular in the U.S. According to statistics from the Japan Used Vehicle Export Association (JUMVEA), exports of domestically produced used cars jumped from just 816 units in 2011 to 11,380 units in 2021 or about 14 times as many. As of February this year, 2,367 vehicles had been exported, and at this pace, the number is expected to exceed 15,000 by 2022.Why are Japanese used cars gaining popularity now? One reason has to do with U.S. regulations on used car imports.
In the U.S., there is a provision known as the 25-year rule, which allows the importation of vehicles that have been manufactured for 25 years or more, even if they do not meet safety and emission standards.
This rule has allowed for the export to the U.S. of several vehicles that have been deregulated, such as the Civic, Integra, Silvia S15, and other sports cars sold from the late 1980s to early 2000s, as well as light trucks that boast compact body sizes and outstanding ease of use. Among these, the Skyline series boasts immense popularity. The number of exports increased dramatically in 2014, when the ban on the R32 was lifted, and in 2020 when the ban on the R33 was lifted.
Toyota Supra (A80 model) that appeared in the first WASPY movieIncidentally, cars that came to the U.S. under the 25-year rule are called JDM (Japanese Domestic Market = cars and equipment for the Japanese domestic market).
The popularity of JDM has been growing along with the movie “Wild Speed,” the first of which was released in 2001; “Spocons” (sports compact cars, mainly North American Honda cars such as Accord, Civic, and Integra) have been highly popular on the West Coast since the 1990s, and the first Wild Speed was also released in 2001. The first Wild Speed movie was also a story about street racers in the suburbs of Los Angeles. Many left-hand-drive Japanese sports cars that were available in the U.S. at the time appeared in the movie, and young Americans were enamored with them.
In addition to WASPY, many Japanese sports cars from the 1990s appeared in anime such as Initial D and popular racing games such as Gran Turismo. The popularity of JDM, which was ignited in the United States, spread to Southeast Asia, China, and Europe.
Honda S2000 appeared in the first and second WASPY films. The photo is a replica. In the film, it was used as the favorite car of Sookie, played by Devon Aoki.
In the U.S., there was no concept of a light truck. Therefore, compact and powerful light trucks were in high demand.

The Skyline God talks about the appeal of Japanese sports cars.

Mr. Sean Morris (right), the God of the Skyline in the United States. Pictured with him is Yasuka Kosuge, co-owner of the company.There is a man who is revered as the “Skyline God” in the United States. He is Sean Morris, co-owner of the import company Top Rank USA. Top Rank USA imports many Japanese sports cars, especially the R32/33 Skyline GT-R, and has sold many of them. Mr. Morris explains the appeal of the Skyline. “In 1991, my father took me to Japan and I saw a real R32 for the first time. I was shocked. I fell in love with it at first sight. The R33 is a little larger than the R32. Therefore, the R33 is much more highly regarded by large Americans than it is in Japan, as it can be driven comfortably over long distances. The chassis has been improved and the aero of the R33 is highly perfected, and the actual aerodynamic performance is excellent.

 The appeal of the R32, in my opinion, is that it is not fully finished. The R34 has matured to a very high level of perfection, but the R32 is fun to customize. That’s what I like about it.”

The NISMO 400R based on the R33, the only one in the U.S., is priced at over 100 million dollars.Meanwhile, Kosuge, who co-manages the company with Sean, analyzes the recent JDM boom. If the popularity of Japanese cars in the early 2000s was the first JDM boom, then this is the second JDM boom. This is not a temporary boom, but rather a growing number of fixed fans. This is probably since the competence, value, and reliability of Japanese cars have been recognized. The current JDM craze is centered on people in their mid-40s. This is the younger generation that was shocked by the coolness of Japanese-made sports cars in Wild Speed.

 More than 20 years have passed, the 25-year rule has been applied, and Japanese cars are now entering the U.S. market at the right time. American GT-R fans who have been waiting for the JDM for a long time are beginning to acquire them one after another.

In January 2024, the importation of the R34 Skyline GT-R, which was released in January 1999, will be listed under the 25-year rule. The popularity of JDM in the U.S. is expected to grow even more.

More than 80 GT-Rs from all over the U.S. participated in the R’s Day event held in early May. Sean and Mr. Kosuge pose in front of successive generations of GT-Rs. The Japanese sports car boom in the U.S. has just begun.
  • Photo Kumiko Kato, Hiroto Kato, Hailey Magoon (7th) Interview and text by Kumiko Kato

Photo Gallery7 total

Photo Selection

Check out the best photos for you.

Related Articles