Japan has been producing cars for almost as long as the United States, to the surprise of some. As the American auto industry has changed, so has Japan’s. Yet to this day, Japan still has the highest concentration of automakers of any country in the world – nine to be exact. Three, however, are truly outstanding that they produce not only high-quality vehicles, but they reach beyond Japan to every corner of the planet. Let’s take a look at the top three and how they are impacting the North American market.
Toyota – As the largest of all Japanese automakers, Toyota ranks second after General Motors in world production. Toyota vehicles were first introduced to the North American market in the 1960s, and at the time, critics criticized them for being too small and inferior in quality. In the late 1970s, Toyota’s quality levels began to exceed the industry standard. Today, Toyota is viewed by some as the benchmark by which all car lines are judged; the company’s Lexus line of luxury vehicles and the Scion brand of youth-oriented vehicles are also leaders in their respective classes.
Sling – The only thing Honda is lacking compared to Toyota is size. Still, when you compare Honda vehicles to comparable Toyota models, Honda holds its own. The first Honda, a Civic, was introduced to the North American market in 1971 and was soon followed by the Accord and Prelude. The Accord routinely fights the Toyota Camry for the top spot in US car sales year after year, while the Honda Odyssey fights the Toyota Sienna for the highest quality minivan. [Chrysler’s minivans still are the best sellers]. Acura is Honda’s luxury car division that has also competed successfully with Toyota’s Lexus line.
Nissan – Toyota and Honda are the only two fully independent Japanese automakers left in the world today, as Nissan has ceded control to Renault, France’s largest automaker. The first Nissan to hit the North American market did so in the 1960s under the model name Datsun. In the early 1980s, the Datsun name was dropped in favor of Nissan and today the Nissan name is equated with some of the highest quality cars on the road. In the late 1980s, Nissan launched the Infiniti division, a luxury automaker that routinely struggles with BMW, Lexus, Acura, Cadillac, and Mercedes as one of the top providers of affluent vehicles.
So there you have it. Three great Japanese brands that have made a name for themselves. You may not own a Toyota, Honda, or Nissan, but you should give credit where it is due: All three automakers are proven leaders in a highly competitive and ever-changing industry.