After my Lateral Thinking post, I saw several comments from people who feel very strongly about makes associated with certain countries. This is certainly easy to understand as nationalism has always been a very big part of civilized culture. However, I truly feel we’ve reached a point at which a car’s manufacturer is increasingly irrelevant and there are no longer truly Japanese cars, American cars or German cars.
Not only are actual part origins and points of assembly being scrambled internationally, but design centers and partnerships between manufacturers are increasingly blurring the lines of what country a vehicle should be associated with.
Another interesting phenomenon is perhaps best personified by Toyota. Their management style and quality control processes have revolutionized the way car companies are run and the whole industry has adopted very similar policies. In essence, this moved the entire industry in a “JDM” direction.
Now, while Toyota is certainly still considered a Japanese brand by many, it is becoming increasingly American. The Camry is now America’s best selling car and every nut bolt and washer of the Toyota Tundra was designed specifically for American consumption. Even branding wise Toyota is running carbureted, pushrod V8’s with everyone else in NASCAR and they have factory efforts in the NHRA as well. At this point, the most Japanese thing about Toyota is its risk-averse management which is honestly holding the company back.
So, what makes a car Japanese anymore? This globalization may be disappointing for the purists, but really the general buying public will only benefit from the increased competition and collaboration. What does this mean for JDM? Simply that there’s less reason than ever to restrict yourself to one make or model or even time period. We don’t have to wait for Honda to bring us Type-R’s or Nissan to bring back the 240SX. Other manufacturers are just as capable of filling those voids and I hope the industry sees and exercises all the opportunities.