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Japan lets U.S. autos into stimulus program

January 19, 2010 |  9:51 am

Japanese nameplates were among the biggest beneficiaries of last year's “cash for clunkers” auto stimulus program.  But U.S. auto exports to Japan were ineligible for a similar program there because of complicated fuel-standard rules in the Asian nation.

Earlier today, Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry eased the rules to allow more American nameplates to qualify. Caddy

American cars, which sell in tiny volume in Japan, can now use federal Environmental Protection Agency mileage ratings to qualify for the Japanese stimulus program.  Previously, only cars that had been evaluated by the Japanese auto regulatory system were eligible.

Detroit automakers will see this as a symbolic victory.  Trade journal Automotive News estimates that the policy change will result in the sale of just 700 more U.S. vehicles in Japan.  Among the models that will benefit are the Ford Escape, the Cadillac CTS and the Chrysler Grand Voyager, the journal said.

The U.S. clunkers program ran from July 24 to Aug. 24 and provided hefty government rebates to consumers who traded in gas guzzlers for more fuel-efficient new vehicles. Foreign automakers dominated the trade, accounting for 61.4% of the nearly 700,000 vehicles sold under the program. Japanese makers grabbed the biggest share, with 47% of the total, thanks to popular gas sippers such as the Toyota Prius and the Honda Fit.

-- Jerry Hirsch
Twitter.com/LATimesJerry

Photo: Cadillac CTS. Credit: General Motors

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