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European, American or Japanese? Key differences between the major car producers

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January 14th 2021 info review

Talk to any car enthusiast and they’ll have a favourite car region. Most often, you’ll find fans of European, American or Japanese cars, irrespective of brand. Some believe the cars perform better, while others prefer them for their idiosyncrasies or aesthetic.

However, is there weight to these preferences? Are European, American and Japanese cars so radically different? Since each of these regions have numerous car brands and manufacturers, can they be summed up under one banner?

Below, we explain the key differences between these major car regions and attempt to settle the American vs European vs Japanese car debate.

The benefits of European cars

Whether it’s well-known brands like Aston Martin and Volkswagen, or smaller manufacturers like Renault, European cars have fans all over the world. Typically, European cars enjoy good fuel efficiency, with manufacturers having a penchant for building unassuming, reliable cars.

When judging European vs American cars, or European vs Japanese cars, it’s always a tight race, and the final decision usually comes down to the driver’s preferences. However, European cars do have several distinct benefits.

Top-quality interiors

From the luxurious leather of a BMW 5 Series to the delicate hand-stitching of a Mini Hatchback, European cars often have absolutely top-quality interiors.

It’s not all looks, either. European cars feel comfortable to drive because of their cosy interiors, not solely due to their handling.

So, while some European motors may look a little boring on the outside compared to their American and Asian counterparts, the region proves it’s the inside that counts.

Integrating high-level tech

Complementing the interiors is a focus on integrating the latest in-car tech. European cars usually come flush with neat additions such as top-of-the-class in-car infotainment, temperature control and intelligent extras to make the driving experience more enjoyable.

Safety

Ever since Volvo became the first producer of the three-point seatbelt in 1959, European cars have become synonymous with industry-leading safety. Worldwide, cars need to adhere to a set safety standard, but European models are known for a better-than-average focus on the driver’s wellbeing.

From ergonomic seating to rigorous testing methods, European cars have more thought put into the safety aspects of their models, which then drips down to the other major car regions.

Commonly, the safest cars are European or Japanese, with each region battling it out closely.

Fuel efficiency

Poor fuel efficiency is perhaps the biggest black mark against American manufacturers, and European cars usually fare well in this regard.

Outside of the Ford Focus, American models very rarely populate year-end lists for the most fuel-efficient cars, with European and Japanese models being the most highly rated.

The reason for this better fuel efficiency lies with fuel prices. Fuel costs, on the whole, are higher in Europe, leading to manufacturers prioritising it during manufacturing; for American manufacturers, power and speed is a bigger priority for the market.

As a result, European cars are built with a stronger focus on fuel efficiency.

History

Poor fuel efficiency is perhaps the biggest black mark against American manufacturers, and European cars usually fare well in this regard.

Outside of the Ford Focus, American models very rarely populate year-end lists for the most fuel-efficient cars, with European and Japanese models being the most highly rated.

The reason for this better fuel efficiency lies with fuel prices. Fuel costs, on the whole, are higher in Europe, leading to manufacturers prioritising it during manufacturing; for American manufacturers, power and speed is a bigger priority for the market.

As a result, European cars are built with a stronger focus on fuel efficiency.

The benefits of American cars

American cars have always been built on three tenants: style, power and affordability. While the nation’s manufacturers have faced tough times recently, they’re still capable of producing stand-out models.

Style

American cars almost always have a certain look to them. Whether it’s a Ford Fiesta or Mustang, the country is synonymous with distinct, strong-looking vehicles.

In cases like Chrysler, this is complemented by engines which sound powerful on the road. And while it may seem like a small factor, driving a stylish car can translate to a better, more confident driving experience.

Automatic Performance

For many years, manual cars were the most popular choice in the US. Now, automatic cars rule the roost, leading to the region becoming one of the best producers of automatic cars in the world.

While driving manual cars is still incredibly popular in the UK, Europe and Asia, people are converting to automatic driving in spades.

Given the popularity of automatic driving in the United States in general, it may be better to opt for a car from this region if you prefer automatic.

Electric cars

When people think of electric cars, they almost always think of Tesla. The brand has become synonymous with this vehicle type, and despite stiff competition from brands like BMW, Tesla still delivers the premier electric car experience.

Tesla is a California-based company, meaning America is the leader in the electric car market. For those looking to make the switch to the cars of the future, considering American electric cars, namely Tesla, could be the way forward.

Size

American cars are the go-to for drivers who want to handle the biggest motors. Roads in the US tend to be much wider than roads in Europe or Asia, leading to comparatively huge cars.

For large SUVs, there is no better than American cars, such as the Chevrolet Traverse or the notorious Hummer. While they may struggle on some roads in the UK, if you’re a driver who enjoys commanding the road, then buying American could be the best option.

Economical prices

Following the struggles of American car makers in the late 2000s, manufacturers needed to find a way to differentiate themselves from other major car regions. One way they managed to do this was to offer economical, affordable cars.

There is a reason why Ford is immensely popular in the UK – it’s cheap to buy and run. While Europe and Japan managed to get an edge in reliability and technology, American car makers decided to make their cars as economical as possible without sacrificing quality.

So, if you need a bargain, then definitely consider buying American.

The benefits of Japanese cars

Japan has a reputation for sublime craftsmanship. Known as the leader in all types of manufacturing, Japan excels in everything from carpentry and musical instruments to electronics and vinyl. One of the things that drives this reputation is the nation’s commitment to creating consistent motors.

Almost all Japanese businesses operate under the philosophy of “Kaizen”. This means they aim to continuously improve all aspects of the business, from the CEO to the production line.

The “Kaizen” mentality is one of the reasons Japanese car manufacturers have slowly risen from middling to being considered amongst the best in the world, with a number of stand-out areas.

Reliability

The major selling point for Japanese cars is their reliability. The Toyota Corolla is the most popular car in the world for this reason – when most people are spending money on a car, they want to know it’s going to last for the long-term.

So, why are Japanese cars so reliable? Well, it has to do with the country’s working culture. Punctuality is incredibly important in Japan, and this has translated to car factories in the country operating like a well-oiled machine.

Combined with a commitment to using the highest-quality parts, it translates to reliable, almost error-free cars.

Driving experience

Japanese cars are known for being fuss-free drives. While the cars have a lot of bells and whistles in the interior, the actual driving experience is easy and precise.

For new drivers or motorists who prefer easy handling, Japanese motors could be the way forward.

Fuel efficiency

With a reputation for producing high-quality hybrids, Japanese car manufacturers know how to create vehicles which focus on fuel efficiency. Each year, Japanese carmakers try to make their cars more efficient, and the best place to focus their efforts on this is with fuel efficiency.

Japan’s closest competitor in this area is Europe, so it’s worth looking at each car on a model-by-model basis to find the best option. Generally, Japan has better hybrids, though Europe has the edge in diesel fuel efficiency.

Value

With a reputation for producing high-quality hybrids, Japanese car manufacturers know how to create vehicles which focus on fuel efficiency. Each year, Japanese carmakers try to make their cars more efficient, and the best place to focus their efforts on this is with fuel efficiency.

Japan’s closest competitor in this area is Europe, so it’s worth looking at each car on a model-by-model basis to find the best option. Generally, Japan has better hybrids, though Europe has the edge in diesel fuel efficiency.

American vs European vs Japanese cars - which is right for you?

All in all, whichever region you prefer, each has its own merits. Regularly, our dealers hear questions like “should I buy an American car?” and “should I buy a Japanese car?”, but answering those questions depends entirely on you.

Whether you’re after a beefy American motor or a quiet and precise Japanese runner, we have everything you need at findandfundmycar.com.

Discover a range of used cars from our trusted, experienced dealers today.

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