Japanese trucks are pretty popular among Aussie drivers. Part of that is subconscious peer pressure. The average person sees so many Japanese heavy vehicles on the road that should they ever decide to buy one, they’re statistically more likely to buy something Japanese. In that sense, the cycle feeds itself. The more we see them, the more we buy them, the more there are on the road, and therefore the more we see.
China is our biggest trading partner, but their trucks aren’t that well represented, and geographically, Japan is close enough to be a viable substitute. Japan also has a longer automotive history, so it’s a good bet in terms of quality. Importing a truck from Japan is easier, faster, and more economical than buying from Europe or America. And of course the more Japanese trucks we buy, the more Japanese spare parts we need.
Japan has been manufacturing cars since the 1900s and is pervasive in the global automotive market. Part of their strategy for creating and expanding their local footprint is to open a local plant for manufacture and assembly. At the moment, Toyota and Mitsubishi both produce cars within Australia’s borders, bringing them closer to the customer.
The wing of Mitsubishi that specifically deals with buses and trucks is Mitsubishi Fuso, with car factories in Japan and the US. Both Mitsubishi and Fuso trucks are prized by Aussie owners and driver. Since the manufacturing plants are local, it translates into more sales. However, not everyone who buys from the showroom will have their servicing done at the showroom – it may be too expensive.
Easy access to parts
This therefore creates market for aftermarket Japanese truck parts, which Aussie companies are eager and willing to fill. There are hundreds of companies dedicated to selling Japanese spare parts. In an interesting twist, supply has increased demand, which isn’t always the case. It makes sense in the car world though, because when someone is shopping for a car, they look at factors like acceleration, top speed, fuel consumption, and cabin space.
They may consider resale value, price, and maybe colour, but a true car enthusiast will look into mechanical matters. How easy is it to maintain the car, can the driver do it on their own, how much service does the car need, and how easy is it to find spares. A surprising number of buyers veer towards Japanese models specifically because their parts are in easy supply. However, this broadens the market for counterfeits, so buyers beware.
Ideal for Aussie roads
Apart from Japan, the world’s top vehicle manufacturers are America and Germany. The other two countries largely make cars for their own markets, but Japan views things a little differently. Japan has a parking problem. It’s so large that before you buy a car, you need proof of your own parking space.
True, your seller won’t know you don’t have a slot, but you’ll need a government-issued license plate for your car, and you can’t get that without proof of parking. That means the bulk of Japanese trucks are manufactured and assembled with foreign markets in mind, and with Australia being such a convenient export destination, a lot of their trucks seem tailored for Aussie driving. And they ship us bulk spares too.
It’s difficult to win a price war with a trading giant, and because Japan is an automotive champion that produces en masse and has a ready market, they can afford to keep their prices friendlier than – say – German cars. Japanese trucks also have a reputation for quality and longevity. There’s a myth that Japanese citizens can’t keep cars longer than two years, which is why their used cars are in such good condition. That’s not entirely true.
A Japanese citizen has to have their car inspected every two years to ensure it’s roadworthy. As long as it passes the test, its owner can keep it. That said, once a car is more than 13 years old, there’s an extra 10% in annual car tax. Still, many Japanese drivers see their car as a status symbol. They trade them in sooner than drivers in other countries. Japanese assembly line techniques reduce production costs significantly, making it affordable to buy a new car.
Japanese cars therefore last longer not because they’re newer when you buy them, but because their quality, workmanship, technology, and market dominance means they can price them lower and still outsell other motoring nations. Besides, aftermarket Japanese truck parts are an industry all their own, and Japan more often ships entire engines and parts than it does trucks. This allows drivers and owners to regularly service, maintain, and repair their trucks, giving the extended life spans.