What Makes A JDM Car? 10 Things You Didn't Know

JDM (or Japanese Domestic Market) can mean many things when it comes to cars, from models to parts. Here's what you might not know!

Many use the term JDM without truly knowing about it. So yes, JDM does stand for the Japanese Domestic Market. But does it include all the Japanese-origin cars so sold and bought back home? What many also don’t know that JDM also includes car parts and auto tuners that can take any car to JDM-like speed and performance.

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The JDM market came to be firmly entrenched at home because of better reliability, more variety and of course cars that can be tuned to the moon and back. But there still may be much we don’t know about JDM – like these 10 things…

10 What JDM Truly Means

In case you buy a Nissan or Honda car at home and rave about how you love the JDM so much that you have invested in a Japanese car, you have just put your foot in your mouth. JDM, as we said before, stands for Japanese Domestic Market – and these are the cars Japan solely makes for in-house use, in Japan.

The cars Japan makes for the US market, very often in factories on US soil, are not JDM cars – these are Japanese-origin cars. But it's only the high-speed, high-performance cars that Japan makes and the fans in the US import, which are true JDM cars.

9 The 25-Year Import Hiatus On JDMs

So there are many cars that Japan solely makes for the American market – these cars are not marketed nor sold in Japan. And then there are cars Japan solely makes for itself or other non-American markets like Europe.

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These cars are often really high on speed and performance, and may not be street legal in the US. But these are what make the JDM market. You can, of course, import these cars into America if that’s where your poison lies but you can do so only after 25 years of that car have passed. If a car was released in Japan in 2000, it can be imported in the US only in 2025. What a waste and wait.

8 The Second-Biggest Car Making Country

We may think that the US is the leading car making country in the world but numbers prove us otherwise. The US is the sixth-largest carmaker of the world, with 3.03 million units made in 2018, according to CEO World. Japan is way up at number two with 8.35 million units, though the world's largest car producer is China at a whopping 24.81 million units.

Surprisingly, its Germany at number three, India at number four and South Korea at number five. Maybe we need to girdle up back home and make more cars before the number six position is taken up by another country. No wonder why JDM does great here – we seem to import more than producing.

7 Aftermarket JDM Tuning & Parts

The thing with many of the JDM cars like the Toyota Supra or the Nissan Skyline is that while they already have enough power under the hood, they can be tuned and built up even more. A good reason for this is the modularity of the engines and how much like blocks, they can be easily built up by people having a rudimentary knowledge of engines.

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There are JDM turbo kits available aplenty in the market but we have one man to thank for that. Hiroyuki Hasegawa, a former Yamaha motor engineer, founded the HKS motor parts company in 1973. They built the first turbocharger and by the 1980s, turbo kits were made to amp up any car into JDM-like performance.

6 American Cars Don’t Do Well In Japan

In a bid to enter the American market with ease, many Japanese car makers let American rebadged cars enter the Japanese market – like the ill-famed Toyota Cavalier, which was a rebranded Chevrolet Cavalier. It was a spectacular fail in Japan and one of the main reasons for this is auto safety.

In the US, carmakers test their vehicles and once they decide federal safety requirements have been met, the vehicle is released. Other independent companies do perform safety crash tests and further give their ratings on the cars. In Japan, it’s the government that does the tests, to make sure automakers toe the line when it comes to safety. They believe this makes for safer cars on the whole.

5 When JDM & Gran Turismo Meet

When it comes to technology, Japan is perhaps unbeatable. Not only do JDM cars find a place in the hit video game Gran Turismo, but Japan has also made the opposite come true. Certain concept cars that are based on hit cars so made by Gran Turismo players have now found their way into real life.

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Gran Turismo incorporates real-life driving conditions and actual laws of physics into the video game making it all pretty real for its players. In the same way, Japan has breathed life into concept cars from the video game and made real prototypes of the same. Mazda and Lexus are a few companies to have made their Vision Gran Turismo comes to life, fantastically.

4 How The 25-Year Import Ban Works For Japan

Technology is always on the fast track in Japan – this is not a country for old cars, much like America may not be a country for old men if Hollywood is to be believed. The Kyusha Cemetery in Japan in one such place where JDM cars go to die – because every car that is 13 years or older costs the owner an extra 10% tax a year.

On the other hand, in America, it is far cheaper to fix up and drive a classic, vintage or sleeper car – meaning an old car past its prime. This is the reason Japan has no problem exporting its 25-year-old cars to America considering no one would drive these in Japan in any case.

3 That Green-And-Yellow JDM Arrow

In America, if you put a green and yellow leaf-like sticker on your car, JDM or otherwise, it tells car enthusiasts that you are a diehard JDM fan. That you may be driving an old and rundown American car but if it truly were possible, you’d be jetting about in a Nissan Skyline or Toyota Supra.

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Of course, in Japan, this yellow and green arrow/leaf has a very different meaning – in that it’s the equivalent of a New Driver sticker in the States. The yellow and green sticker in Japan lets the other cars know that this is a new driver, and since they just got their license, they aren’t quite as good for now.

2 Drifting: Thanks, Japan!

Remember the Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift? Remember how they drove? Yep, that is what drifting is and its origins are all Japanese. In the 70s, race car driver Kunimitsu Takahashi began to oversteer and let the rear end of his car drift in smoke and dust before overcorrecting on the other side to complete the corner.

The car may look like its losing control but it's only the rear wheels that are losing traction. The actual steering is happening on the front wheels. Ever since then drifting has remained an "in thing", and there are drifting races and contests held all over the world. Most strong cars can drift with ease, but doing it in a JDM makes symmetrical sense.

1 JDM Auctions Equal Big Bucks

Before JDM became the most rad thing in the US, most Japanese cars that were older than 13 years would be laid to rest in cemeteries, or junked away and destroyed. Now that 25-year-old cars have found a new life in America, these very resting places are churning out great bucks in exports.

Also in Canada, it's only a 15-year hiatus. Of course, not every Japanese car finds a new home in Canada after 15 years or the States in 25 years. The high-performance models of Nissan, Toyota, Mazda, Honda, and Subaru do manage to net in their junkyards decent swill. The better the condition of the car and the better its performance, the better they fetch at auto auctions.

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