May
03
Jap Crap

Tom: “Were you paying attention when the ‘Jap crap’ LS 400 combined an opulent cabin with rear drive and a silky, potent V8 for 35,000?”

You sound like an idiot.

I don’t know if your ignorance is willful, or if it’s driven by some sort of latent racism or misplaced sense of nationalism, but you sound like an idiot.

Every time you refer to Japanese-brand vehicles as “rice burners” or “Jap crap,” you reveal to everyone in attendance that you are a clueless troll with little interest in having a real discussion.

Yet you, and a slowly shrinking pool of fellow idiots, still persist in perpetuating the long-discredited meme that Japanese cars and trucks are somehow substandard products.

The sometimes unspoken but always present tacit component of this line of reasoning is that American-brand vehicles are better than Japanese vehicles—and always have been. It is on this point that your baffling disconnect from the truth becomes most poignant.

I, too, once believed unfailingly in the superiority of American automobiles. A four-year stint as a pump jockey and part-time mechanic quickly corrected that.

In the course of my job, I drove brand-new Oldsmobile Cutlasses that rattled as if the ashtrays and door pockets were filled with lead shot and loose change. I wrote countless repair orders for cars with Ford’s glitch-plagued Variable Venturi Carburetor. I watched cheap chrome foil trim bits slowly peel away from the bumpers of American luxury cars. But mostly, I watched car owners shelling out big money to maintain domestic vehicles that were clearly designed and built, first and foremost, to be profitable, not reliable—or even especially drivable.

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Sure, Japanese cars came to the station too, but mostly for oil changes and the occasional brake job.

Maybe you live in a vacuum, and have just never been exposed to the truth. Maybe, every time you use the term “Jap crap” on Facebook or on a message board, you do so with complete confidence that you speak the truth. If that’s the case, I ask you the following:

Were you paying attention when…

…homegrown American “economy cars” first arrived on the scene? While Chevrolet Vega owners were busy contending with warped cylinder heads, and Ford Pintos were busy exploding upon rear impact, less expensive “imports” were quietly rewarding early adopters with fuel thrift and surprising reliability.

…General Motors’ import-fighting “X-Cars” came online? Did you miss the nine recalls for just the first year of production? And why, you may want to ask yourself, was it already necessary for GM to have an import fighter?

…every single Accord that Honda could build in the mid-to-late ’80s was being sold to grateful American buyers for $500 to $1,000 over list price? Sold to buyers who would never, ever, go back to buying an American car.

…Lexus turned the luxury-car world on its ear in 1989? Were you paying attention when the “Jap crap” LS 400 combined an opulent cabin with rear drive and a silky, potent V8 for $35,000? This while the least-expensive V8-powered Mercedes listed for more than $60,000.

…Honda rolled out variable valve timing, torque vectoring, cylinder deactivation, and active sound canceling?

…after other makers tried and failed to make the technology work, Nissan successfully incorporated efficient continuously variable transmissions (CVTs) into most of its lineup?

In the unlikely event that you’re in anyway motivated to somehow prove your point, you’re likely now, for the first time, checking the performance of domestic vehicles as reported by the likes of J.D. Power and R. L. Polk. What you’ll learn is that most American products now perform as well, or about as well, as the Japanese competition. For that we can thank the Japanese for setting standards far above the once-accepted norms. Go back 10 or 20 years and you’ll see that things were quite different.

The truth is, American cars are better now because Japanese cars have been so good for so long. Had the Japanese carmakers not challenged the American public’s perception of quality and value, we’d still be driving around in rattling Cutlasses and grossly overpriced Mercedes sedans.

In the end, I can live with someone buying only domestic products for some political or economic reason. What I can’t accept is the summary dismissal of all cars from one country as being crap. And when you casually make such a claim, frankly, you sound like an idiot.

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