Japanese car brands have consistently demonstrated remarkable success worldwide. The journey of Japan’s automobile industry began with the production of cars in small batches around the same time as their American and European counterparts. However, it was not until the 1960s that Japan entered the era of mass production for automobiles.
In 1957, Toyota established its North American headquarters in Hollywood, California. Over the years, the automaker’s prowess allowed it to surpass Volkswagen as the leading import brand in the US by 1975. As the late 1970s approached, Japanese automakers made significant strides in the US market, culminating in a significant milestone in 1982. This marked the year when the first Japanese car, a Honda Accord, rolled off an American assembly line in Marysville, Ohio, proudly displaying a license plate reading “USA001.”
Today, every major Japanese automaker that sells cars in the US also manufactures many of its vehicles within the country. In fact, Japanese automakers are responsible for producing approximately one-third of all cars manufactured in the US. A quick search for the most American cars by country of manufacture will reveal several Honda and Toyota vehicles included on the list.
Japanese auto manufacturers have consistently proven themselves as top contenders in terms of reliability, dependability, crash-test ratings, safety advancements, technology, and resale value. Notably, Japanese cars tend to be more fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly compared to many of their non-Japanese counterparts. Japanese automakers were early pioneers in hybrid car manufacturing, although they have been somewhat less aggressive in entering the electric vehicle market.
While Japanese automakers have established a reputation for producing practical and budget-friendly vehicles, they have also successfully embraced the luxury and performance segments. Let us now delve into each Japanese automobile brand currently operating in the US market:
Established in 1986 as the luxury division of Honda, Acura became the first Japanese luxury car brand. Acura offers a range of small and midsize sedans, coupes, and SUVs. Their vehicles, often priced below luxury competitors from Japan and Germany, emphasize sportiness alongside comfort. Prominent models within the Acura lineup include the MDX SUV and the TLX sedan.
Ownership: Acura is a subsidiary of Honda Motor Company.
Founded in 1948, Honda is a Japanese brand renowned for its practicality, safety, and reliability. In 1982, the Honda Accord became the first Japanese car to roll off an assembly line in the US. Honda offers vehicles in various classes, focusing on overall performance and customer satisfaction. Their product lineup comprises popular models such as the Civic sedan, CR-V SUV, and Odyssey minivan.
Ownership: Honda is a subsidiary of Honda Motor Co.
Established by Nissan in 1989, Infiniti is a Japanese luxury brand known for producing cars and SUVs with strong engines, innovative features, excellent crash test ratings, and impressive fit and finish. Infiniti’s lineup includes models such as the Q50 sedan, Q60 coupe, and QX60 SUV.
Ownership: Infiniti is part of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance.
Lexus, established in 1989 under the Toyota umbrella, is a distinguished Japanese automotive brand offering a diverse selection of sedans, SUVs, coupes, and hybrids. Revered for their serene and luxurious cabins, Lexus vehicles boast impressive safety records and top-tier reliability ratings. Within their remarkable portfolio, one can find exceptional models such as the elegant ES sedan, the stylish RC coupe, the environmentally friendly RX hybrid, and the formidable LX SUV.
Ownership: Lexus is a subsidiary of Toyota Motor Corp.
Mazda, established in 1920, is a Japanese brand that specializes in sporty cars and crossovers with good fuel economy and premium interiors. The company entered the US market in 1970, and its vehicle lineup comprises the CX-5 crossover, Mazda3 sedan and hatchback, and the iconic Miata roadster.
Ownership: Mazda Motor Corporation owns the automaker.
Mitsubishi, a Japanese automaker, produces cars and SUVs such as the Mirage and Outlander. While some of Mitsubishi’s current models may lack the reliability and overall refinement of its competitors, they remain affordable options. Founded in 1970, Mitsubishi officially entered the US market in 1982.
Ownership: Mitsubishi is part of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance.
Aside from Toyota, Nissan stands as the only Japanese automaker in the US to offer an extensive lineup of cars across almost every vehicle class. Nissan’s diverse range includes the Leaf electric car, GT-R sports coupe, Altima sedan, Rogue SUV, and Frontier and Titan pickup trucks. Originally known as Datsun when it first arrived in the US in 1958, the company underwent a transformation and became Nissan in 1986.
Ownership: Nissan is part of the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance.
With a focus on utility, capability, safety, and value, Subaru is a Japanese automaker that stands out. Virtually all vehicles in their lineup come equipped with all-wheel drive, higher ground clearance, and mild off-road capabilities, making them popular choices among outdoor enthusiasts. Prominent models within the Subaru stable include the WRX compact car, Outback wagon, and Forester SUV. Subaru arrived in America in 1968, and until recently, its parent company was known as Fuji Heavy Industries.
Ownership: Subaru Corp. owns the automaker.
Founded in 1937, Toyota is a Japanese brand that produces cars, trucks, SUVs, and minivans. Renowned for offering practical vehicles that excel in safety and reliability, Toyota also boasts a full lineup of hybrid vehicles. The automaker made its debut in the US market in 1957, with the Corolla earning the distinction of being the best-selling car of all time in both the US and globally. The Toyota Highlander, Tacoma, Corolla, Camry, and RAV4 continue to rank among the top vehicles sold in the US.
Ownership: Toyota Motor Corp. is the parent company.
In summary, Japanese car brands have left an indelible mark on the US automotive landscape, establishing themselves as leaders in reliability, innovation, and customer satisfaction. With a diverse range of offerings spanning practicality, luxury, and performance, these brands have captured the hearts of American consumers while consistently delivering vehicles that meet their needs and preferences.
Updated List of All Japanese Car Brands Available in the US in 2023: