Japan’s used cars dumped in Third World

Three years ago, Michiya Ogawa bought a new Toyota Corolla station wagon for US$15 800 to commute to his office in Japan’s mountainous Yamagata prefecture. A year later, the 47-year-old graphic designer got in an accident and sold the damaged car. Since then, his white Corolla wagon has traveled 7 000 miles around the world, first to a massive used-car market in the deserts of Dubai and now to the rugged streets of Nairobi, Kenya.

Its new owner, 30-year-old Wilfred Gathai, bought the car for US$3 400 to deliver fresh fruits and vegetables.
Between these two owners lies a booming US$2,7 billion industry built around exporting second-hand Japanese vehicles.

Fueled by Japan’s increasingly sophisticated used-car market and a hunger for cheap, reliable vehicles in developing countries, an auto-export revolution is taking shape.

The value of second-hand car shipments from Japan continues to jump each year and raking in billions to the Japanese.
Used-car exports from Japan will likely top a record one million vehicles per year for countries like Kenya and South Africa, according to the Japan Used Motor Vehicle Exporters’ Association.

While South Africa has banned the use of second-hand Japanese vehicles on its roads, the vehicles end up in Zimbabwe or Zambia.
One reason the Japanese have come to dominate used-car exports is that the other big new-car markets, the European Union (EU) and the United States, each has huge domestic used-car markets.

Some 43 million used cars are sold in the United States, the world’s largest car market.
With strong local demand for used cars, there is little incentive to ship cars in large numbers from the States or the EU.

In Japan, quirks of the market and the consumer have created a glut of saleable used cars.
Strict and expensive vehicle inspections in Japan discourage people from holding on to cars as they age.

Moreover, there is a strong cultural aversion among the Japanese to buying almost anything second-hand.
The result: Ships filled with low-priced cars. Everything from sports cars to high-mileage vehicles, damaged cars and patched up wrecks, leave Japanese ports for emerging markets.

The cars end up in Africa, the Middle East, the Caribbean and Asia, accelerating motorisation in areas where new cars are still beyond the reach of many consumers.

The global auto industry is waking up to the repercussions, as Japanese brands, particularly Toyota, find their way to first-time buyers.
Many African cities are already teeming with Toyotas, even though very few new cars have been sold there.

That’s troubling for Detroit car makers, which have been eyeing new markets to spur sales as developed nations become saturated with cars.
Exports of used cars from Japan have an impact on “our bottom line, because each used-car sale is a new-car sale lost,” says Jay Cooney, a General Motors spokesman in Singapore who is responsible for Asia.

The rapid surge in used-car exports is also triggering trade tensions.
Pacific Island nations have asked Tokyo for aid to dispose of the junked cars piling up as people replace clunkers with newer used cars from Japan.

Australia began limiting imports of used vehicles after lobbying by new-car dealers.
Hiroshi Sato, the chairman of the used-vehicle-exporting group, travelled to Dhaka, Bangladesh, trying to persuade the country to delay imposing a ban against older used cars. “It was our first lobbying effort and it was a success,” says Mr Sato. Dhaka hasn’t relaxed any of the restrictions yet, but the policy is under review, said Hussain Ahmed, commercial councillor in the Bangladesh embassy in Tokyo. — The Wall Street Journal.

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  • Chiruzevha Chapera

    Its not only cars…even second hand clothes and stock such as maize and beans are being given to Africans for consumption!

  • Mimi

    African countries have become a dumping ground of everything 2nd hand because the governments do not pay their own people living wages and salaries to survive. People are held to ransom and just have no choice but to opt for the cheap 2nd hand vehicles, clothes and anything you might thing of. Things would be better if African countries would aim to ensure that their inhabitants are also treated decently i.e. without the huge margines of the haves and have nots clearly widening. A parent will do anything to give their offspring food on the table be it GMO’s or whatever.

  • Rwatida Makuwe

    I would not like it to be called dumping, for we do not have any significant car industries nor assemblers except may be in RSA. RSA are justified in banning the second hand vehicles but not all South Africans afford their new and expensive vehicles. I do not know for what reason you reporters want to keep reporting and sensationalizing this. I suspect that someone in the Ministers’ echelons own a car sales and wants to foment the banning of second hand cars so that his sales can go up. Reality is that we will not afford those expensive cars. What you say are second hand cars are in far much better condition and help families as good transport. We do not want black oppressors here please. First it was the mandatory blending which we did not like but just because there is Rautenbach who is connected to the big ministers. Never ever write about this you misguided reporter. If you want to incite the banning of second hand vehicles please do the same to all other products…..clothes and electronic equipment.