Not long ago I was shopping for a car to replace my WRX, i've always been a fan of Japanese cars and something hit me. They produce NOTHING of interest.
NOTHING? you might say. Well sure, if I was shopping below $30,000 there are some intersting cars: Speed 3, WRX, Miata, and FRS for example. However what if I want a sporty car that competes with a BMW 128i or 135i? Something above $30,000 that has a sporty drivetrain (rear wheel drive), available manual, and has competitive performance.
Well they do produce cars that meet some of that. The 370z. I did consider that for a very short period of time, but then I see how far behind it is and a shocking revelation. The Nismo 370 had the same 0-60, same 1/4 mile, and similar track times as a 3.8l Hyundai Genesis. Even a similar, under performing, brake setup. The nismo costs something like $15,000 more. At near $44,000 for the nismo with no options. I've driven one as well, it's handling compared to the Genesis is similarly expected for a car of it's type and the Hyundai's gearbox while not the best is improved but not worth a $15,000 upgrade.
What about a sport sedan? Does Japan complete there? Nope. Look at all what could be found to compete with a CTS V-Sport from the guys at Motortrend:
If you want a higher end performance orientated car Japan produces literally nothing until you get into $100,000+ supercar territory. This used to be their forte.
Supercar Supra rumors and downsized FRS fighter Fairlady rumors lead nothing to hope either. As a fan of Japanese cars my only hope is Mazda who may just pull out a RX-8 successor out of nowhere as they seem, aside from Subaru, the only company interested in building cars for enthusiasts. I say BUILDING because all these IDX and Supra concepts always come out every few years and never show up in the market.
Let's look at all the performance cars from all the marques under $80,000 combined not counting duplicates.
Japan: Miata, FRS, MS3, WRX, 370Z. IS-F
Ford: Fiesta ST, Focus ST, Mustang, Taurus SHO - ONE company.
All Ford needs is a small RWD car and they have that, the hot hatch (two of them), the sport compact, the GT, the slushbox luxury performance car. Sure the IS-F is better than the SHO however at least Ford ATTEMPTS to build a competitive car. Japanese companies on the other hand do not. They don't compete with the Fiesta ST. They don't compete with the Mustang (which itself has MANY alternatives from every country BUT Japan), especially not the upcoming car. The MS3 and the Focus ST are almost twins aside from looks. The 370z is strangely out of place and doesn't sell anymore. Not competitive with the similarly priced Mustang GT, not competitive with a 335 or 135.... who buys them?
If it wasn't for the fact that Japan didn't release so many of their cars in the US in the 90s it would be evident. Every Japanese company had a car they sold in multiple regions that competed in every segment. Now the equivalents are, often, inferior or they don't produce a successor or the company is a walking zombie (mitsubishi). I would of thought in 2013 back then that every Japanese company would make a car BETTER than the FD RX7 in the same segment. BETTER than the EG Civic. They should have built BETTER than the GC8, BETTER than the Familia GTR. Instead every single one of those segments have taken steps back. The only car arguably "better" than it's previous incarnation is the GTR which it took them double the price to bring to that level. Meanwhile BMW builds a car better than the highest spec Supra in the BMW M3 at around the same price as that car's later incarnations. It builds a car equal to that in the M135i at the same price that the supra cost in the early 90s. This is BMW, someone who makes cars at a very high price point.
Am I wrong? Is this not the malaise era for Japan? I think all the evidence is there that it is.
They need to actually MAKE these concepts to prove me wrong. Even then would the IDX (sadly the only car I can think of) be BETTER than the silvia/180sx? Doubt it.