American Cars Versus Japanese Cars


During the sixties, when I first moved to Panama City, about 95 percent of the cars on the street were American cars.  The rest were European and Japanese cars.  The German VW beetle was very popular then, but that’s another story.

Some of the brands I stilll remember are:  Ford, Studebaker, Lincoln, Pontiac, Cadillac, De Soto, Buick, Oldsmobile, Chevrolet, Mercury, Cougar and others that slip my mind.  Now, it’s the other way around.  If you go outside and take a look at the cars that are being used, they are Japanese and Korean cars.  Toyota and Nissan are the leaders of the pack.

Why is that?  I think it has to do with several factors like usability, dependability durability and efficiency.  When the gasoline was sky high selling at $4.00 a gallon last April, American companies were manufacturing gasoline guzzlers like the SUVs, while the Japanese were cleverly designing hybrid cars.  The Japanese and Koreans knew that SUVs had their days counted and that people would demand fuel-efficient cars.  Even a first grader knew that, but not Detroit; they were too busy enjoying their multi-million private jets and spending their astronomical annual bonuses.

Detroit is having a big headache because they lost their sense of competition at a global scale.  Paying exorbitant salaries to top management, erroneous marketing strategies, excessive brands, complacent and irresponsible relationships with industry unions killed the goose with the golden eggs.  While GM was busy killing the EV1, the Japanese were getting ready to launch their hybrid car.  What a contrast of visions.

In 1990 I purchased a second-hand car for $5,300.  It was a 1985 Nissan Bluebird which belonged to a doctor’s wife.  The car looked like a million bucks.  It had electric windows, automatic transmission, 1.800 cc motor, large trunk, electric rear mirrors and a whole lot of other features.  This Japanese car is now 23 years old and working like a Swiss watch.  This is why I will never buy an American car.  They just are not as good as Japanese cars, and most people in Panama will agree with me.

If Detroit wants to keep on manufacturing cars, they will have to re-learn from the Japanese and Koreans how to build cars people will buy over and over again.  In a nutshell, the American car makers will have to learn how to compete with heavyweights like Toyota, Nissan, Mazda Hyundai, and KIA to name a few, on a global scale.

Just to give you an idea, how well my 23-year-car looks like, I took some photos yesterday to share them with you today. Take a look at my ole Bluebird.

Photograph of my 1985 Datsun Bluebird in parked the garage.
Photograph of my 1985 Datsun Bluebird parked in the garage.
A side view of the 1985 Datsun Bluebird.
A side view of the 1985 Datsun Bluebird.
Front view of the 1985 Nissan Bluebird.  Notice how the paint of the hood is fading away.
Front view of the 1985 Nissan Bluebird. Notice how the paint of the hood is fading away.

I plan to keep this car as long as I can get spare parts.  When that is not possible, then I’ll have to buy another Nissan.  There’s a model that  I like, the Nissan Almera.  In Panama they have a price tag of $14,000 which is reasonable.

Would you buy an American or Japanese/Korean car?  Good Day.

30 thoughts on “American Cars Versus Japanese Cars”

  1. >Would you buy an American or Japanese/Korean car?

    Well, I live in Japan. Here, American and even Korean cars are rare.

    Some rich people buy luxury European cars such as Benz, BMW, Alfa Romeo, etc….but most people here who have a car, have a Japanese car.

  2. Hi Tokyo5:

    Same here in Panama with the rich people. They have the tendency to buy expensive European automobiles like the brands you mentioned; specially BMW and Mercedes Benz.

    I’m sure people in Japan are fully satisfied using Japanese cars for the reasons I stated in my post.

    Thank you for your comment.

    Omar.-

    1. Hi Mat:

      I totally agree with you. Japanese technology is better than American technology in car manufacturing. In computers it’s a whole different story.

      Will take a look at your web site.

      Best Regards,

      Omar.-

    2. I think Americans are way better, you don’t see old 1960’s to 1970’s Japanese cars around because of the simple fact that they are not even worth restoring. Today Americans are destroying the Japanese in the super car divisions with the $110,000 corvette zr1 that beats the $300,000 LFA in horsepower, zero to sixty, and top speed. Sure it looses in the the luxury aspect of it, but the fact remains that a super sport car is mostly about its performance. Also there is the dodge viper, ford gt, hennessey venom gt (wich stands toe to toe with the Bugatti Veyron SS). I come from a family of Japanese car users and believe me, there is soooo much repairs that needs to be done every year. So i really don’t see the reliability part of it. My uncle who runs a transportation services with his years of experiences knows never to buy Japanese cars because they can’t stand up to the mileage that he needs. He goes with American Chevy, dodge, and ford. For a fact American trucks tromps the Japanese, the Toyota trucks are very notorious for its bed wobble. I’m very sick and tired of the undeserving cliche given to the Japanese car companies. It is that stuff that is damaging American car companies and more importantly the American economy.

  3. I think that each has its advantages;) But I come to like American better.

    American = Better looks and Strength; but not efficient

    Japanese = Efficient and Quiet; not that strong( i.e. I had a Toyota Camry and I once accidentally crashed into another car(parking) going at around 12 mph. My camry’s side was MUSHED compared to the Ford Mustang that I crashed into(hardly a large scratch).

    I grew up mostly seeing people around my neighborhood driving Toyota Camry, Corolla, etc. I started to dislike Toyota when I saw the American cars which looked wayyyyy cooler, but didn’t have much mileage or quietness of a Toyota. I guess most American cars are used for muscle i.e. Ford Mustang(love that car). I hope that American cars will develop “modes” on the car so it could be quiet when you want it to be, and very loud(as in rev up the car) when you want it to be. All in all I think each are great and has advantages/disadvantages; however, I prefer American cars :).

  4. Hi mclovin:

    You have expressed very good points in your comments. Sometimes in life, everything is not exactly white or exactly black; but rather shades of gray.

    My experience has been only with Japanese cars, and think that’s why I prefer them. With my tight budget, my main concern is the cost of gasoline. I don’t have many accidents, so I don’t focus on that aspect.

    With the price of a gallon of gasoline hovering over $2-$4, fuel efficient cars are hard to neglect.

    As far as durability is concerned, my ole Nissan looks like a million bucks, yet it has been with me just about 29 years.

    If the American car makers wish to stay in business, they will have to build more fuel efficient cars. People are not buying gas guzzlers anymore.

    Thank you for expressing your thoughts. They are very well taken.

    Best Regards,

    Omar.-

  5. Where’s your patriotism people? Buying American cars gives American jobs, and boosts the economy. Have you ever noticed that most antique cars are American and that their parts are cheaper? It is just a common stereotype that American cars are unreliable. Buick, owned by GM, rated #1 in reliability last year. And American cars have low resale value because they are cheap. A 2009 Dodge Caravan is $20,000 and a 2009 Honda Odyssey is about $34,000. Of course the Odyssey will be a little bit better: but just compare prices!

    1. Hi Bob:

      I understand your point, but American cars are too gasoline thirsty. At $5.00 a gallon of gas, many people can’t afford an American car. I hope that GM and Chrysler have learned their lesson and start making more gas-efficient cars. Then we can switch to American cars. In the meantime, I’ll take for a Japanese or Korean car anytime.

      Thanks for dropping by. Come back anytime.

      Regards,

      Omar.-

  6. check out the new 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid. outdoes all competion.
    not by a lot over the Cambry hybrid, but rated much more fun. It is quiet and does the best miles/gallon.
    WOW. as an American I never thought I would see the day.

  7. Hey, you’ve got some good points, but my ’99 Contour runs like a champ, and I’ve so far only had minor electrical problems that come with mistreatment. While I’m not saying my next car will be a Ford in any idea (As I favor the Jeep more, in spite of it’s efficiency problem), I’d say keep an eye out for the not so hyped up American cars, as many of them aren’t too bad, and run fairly cheap prices. (My Contour is worth roughly 1000)

    1. Hello TavinJoker:

      After the bad rap of Japanese cars with the sudden unexpected acceleration issue, I’m sure many car buyers will go back to American cars. Now is their Golden Opportunity. Good for you and your Contour.-

      Best of Luck,

      Omar.-

  8. Exactly, my dads 1993 toyota previa has 250,000 miles on the original engine and tranny, though, toyota is no where near what they used to be, oh well, at least honda and nissan are still pumpin out the good stuff.

  9. in canada, where I live you need a truck because of the terrain, we do lots of hauling, have rough winters need to access hard roads, you cant get that out of an import car. We have an 83 olds 98 and a 79 pontiac. They are not trucks but they haul good, do good on gravel, never lost a race to an import and always start. My olds 98 is 18ft long and weighs 4000 plbs and gets 100kms/9.5L of gas. The pontiac We have never gotten stuck, have put it airbourne and just fine after.We have never seeen an import doing this. Imnott saying that imports are bad but from our experieneces nothing seems to beat american made vehicles

    1. Hi Olds:

      I remember those old cars and how strong they were. You are right about that. But, as the years passed the American automobile industry got lazy and their cars were losing quality. That’s when the Japanese cars started to gain market share. In Panama where I live, people don’t buy American cars because they are not reliable. I own a Toyota Corolla and would not trade it for an American car. I don’t need it to be strong, but I do need it to be fuel efficient, because I drive mostly in the city.

      Thank you for your insightful comments.

      Good Luck,

      Omar.-

  10. Japanese one word a lot better then any production cars so far. i had 89 corrola with 370k miles original engine and clutch. one day ( i drive car like i stole it) i jump the curb and busted my oil pen in 2 min my oil was gone and oil presure light lid up guess what i’m 80 miles away from home. so i just desided f**** it i will drive car home it it blows it blows so i got home with light beeing on for more the hour and i add oil change pan offcorse and still driving that car. i own STI and i race a lot on race track its 4 wheels drive offcorse i lanch that car at least ten times a weeks all 4 wheels spinning never had problems with axels trany clutch engine of yea it’s got 106k miles tell me if mustang can do that one race new clutch one race and you need new differention or axel.

  11. So called American car are not really American coz they sell Korean rebadge cars, get parts from Canada and Mexico. Most American car makers will be selling in USA Chinese made cars in 2011. Bailout money goes to China. Toyota employs more American people than GM. Yeah buy American and help Chinese car industry grow. Detroit is moving to Shanghai.

  12. I have to say, American cars were slacking but now they exceed and pass imports by far in quality they have changed with the increasing gas prices, starting to make hybrids etc… AMERICAN CARS ALL THE WAY…. just my opinion nothing personal.

  13. If I were you I would continue to buy 80s era Japanese cars. They lost there way in the 90s and now they are every bit as crappy as the cars that detroit built in the 80s -90s.

    Warantee claims back this up. Companies like honda hide warantee claims as much as possible but ask any honda mechanic and they will tell you that the bays are always full.

    Worse is that most rental companies have equiped there rental fleet with toyotas, hondas, mazdas, etc. That is a sure fire way to kill the value of a brand or vehical when a year from now hundreds of thousands of these cars will hit the market.

    Detroits big three on the other hand has turned a corner making probably the best cars in the world again. They are giving people exactly what they want in cars and warantee claims, and recalls are down and customers that are driving these vehcials are happier then ever.

  14. I heard in the news that because of the tsunami, dealers will bump up the prices on new Japanese cars.

    And as a result, people may pay a premium for older models, having believed those were the bestest made vehicles of all time, and the value of those will also go up.

    Best thing is “Buy American”, but for the value for money. And lower cost of ownership. Just avoid Pontiacs and Dodges.

    My friend is getting a 1995 Chevy Corsica instead of those overrated godlike civics sentras and corollas.

  15. Hey guys and gals,

    Any car will last longer if it is well taken care of. Japanese cars are more efficient with their gasoline usage. Reliability, however, is another story. Taxi drivers own American cars most of the time, in California. That’s because taxi drivers (stereotype) want to get to their destination ASAP so they need good acceleration and cars that can handle the punishment of city driving for a long time (many years). I see a lot of early 90s Japanese imports and 80s out there but they’re in horrible shape. They’re dinged up good, make noise, and go slow.

    I went to the junkyard and most of the American cars from the 90s there are in tact. This means that if you have an American car from that decade you’ll be able to fix it cheaply. And on the japanese car sides all you see are shells. Good luck fixing it at a low cost.

    When it comes to looks American Cars are clear winners. Look at Mustang, Camaro, Thunderbird and even the Fusion. I definitely like American cars more on how they look. And they are way more comfortable than Japanese cars on long drives. The japanese compacts are way too small and the seats are very uncomfortable.

    Japanese cars are very light on the handling so I think the car wants to get away from me. I don’t know how to explain it but when I drive an American car I feel like I’m…well… DRIVING! It does feel a little bit stiff at first but it’s much more comfortable to feel a little bit of resistance from the steering wheel of a car than having it move really quickly really fast. I feel that’s safer. Kind of disregarding accidental movements. It’s like Japanese cars are very touchy, delicate even. I had a 99 Toyota Corolla. It was way too small for me and I am only 5’11”. I then got a 96 Chevrolet Cavalier and it is so much more fun to drive. The seat is much more comfortable and it’s engine is in great shape (190K miles). It runs so smooth and it doesn’t make that little hissing sound you hear from a Corolla. The engine sounds nice and you can tell you are getting more power with the 4 cylinders. It sounds like a little engine that can. And does. (28 MPG)

    I hope I don’t offend people with Japanese cars. I just like American cars more:) They are much better.
    Any questions or comments?

    Regards,
    Ignacio

  16. Well, i look at it like this. I have a Jeep. Everybody says im crazy because its impractical. But when it come choosing between “Reliability, fuel economy, suited for purpose” and “Awesome!” I’m afraid “Awesome!” wins every time 😉

  17. American cars are a lot better. The quality is no comparision. The reason why people buy japanese cars are cuz their cheap

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