Whether internationally-made cars are “better” is really a matter of opinion. While the F-Series is the top-selling model in the U.S., it’s not the best-selling vehicle in the world. That coveted spot goes to Toyota, which has sold over 40 million units since 1966, according to the Balance. But why?

While we can’t answer the question as to whether internationally cars actually outperform their American counterparts, one thing is for certain: when it comes down to reliability, affordability, and performance, you just can’t beat brands like Toyota, Hyundai, and Honda. Time and time again, they leave Uncle Sam in the dust.

What Makes a Car “International”?

If you’re new to the auto world, you might not understand what constitutes an international car. Some vehicles have been on the roads for so long they might even be synonymous with American culture, like Volkswagen. Yep, even if Herbie the Lovebug could talk, he’d speak with a German accent.

The following are all examples of international cars and their places of origin:

· Honda (Japan)

· Toyota (Japan)

· Kia (South Korea)

· Hyundai (South Korea)

· Fiat (Italy)

· Mini Cooper (United Kingdom)

· Ferrari (Italy)

· BMW (Germany)

· Volkswagen (Germany)

· Lexus (Japan)

· Bugatti (France)

This, of course, is not an exhaustive list.

People Became Disenchanted with American Cars in the 1970s

Two things in the ‘70s shaped the auto industry as we know it: Ford’s massive recall and the 1970s oil crisis. Here’s how:

Ford’s Reputation Took a Hit After Failing to Product Safe Trucks

Per the Washington Post, in the ‘70s, Ford knowingly produced cars with faulty transmissions. You’d put your truck in reverse, and it’d power forward at full speed. This caused countless injuries and fatalities–-yet Ford was largely able to escape liability by putting warning stickers on their vehicles in the 1980s.

While Ford wasn’t the only American car maker on the market, it was nearly one and the same. People started thinking, “If Ford was able to release millions of unsafe cars onto the market, what another American brand is doing it, too?”

People Prioritized Fuel Economy Over Brand Loyalty

While this was all happening, gas prices were at record prices. By today’s standards, one gallon of gas cost about 87 cents––which when adjusted for inflation, that would be about six dollars. People were desperate not only for affordable gas but also for cars that wouldn’t break the bank.

This is where Toyota stepped on the scene. With their vehicles’ fuel economy, reliability, and modest price, the organization saw their brand slowly become a household name. While American automakers have been able to increase their vehicles’ fuel intake, the damage was done; people who bought Toyotas remained loyal to the brand, forever affecting American carmakers.

What Sets Internationally-Made Cars Apart from American Vehicles?

Let’s get one thing out of the way first:

· English cars are known for being unreliable. In fact, Consumer Reports in the past has panned the Mini Cooper multiple times.

· French cars, while decently made, have an average reputation in North America.

· German cars are expensive to maintain. You usually can’t take your German-made car to just any mechanic. Audi also generally gets mixed reviews in terms of reliability and mileage and reviews are dominating the market whether it be your car or your furniture.

Asian-made cars (specifically those in Japan) have crystal clear reputations. Here’s why:

World War II Transformed Japan

After WWII, Japan was anxious to rebuild and return to normalcy. However, this wasn’t easy. In the past, they’d been able to adapt Henry Ford’s assembly line with relative ease. But after the war, they needed to streamline the process––and boy, did they do it.

According to Garage Dreams, Japanese automakers undertook initiatives to reduce waste, make “more with less,” and nearly eliminate the likelihood of error. The source notes that in America, when a car on the assembly line had a problem, it was fixed after it finished production. With Japan’s style of car making, they addressed the issue immediately, allowing them to prevent the initial problem from becoming worse.

This strategy worked to their advantage. While Toyota wouldn’t hit the market for about 20 years after WWII, today many of these car making methods are still in place.

Culture Plays a Large Role in the Auto Making Process

Frontiers in Psychology acknowledges that perfectionism plays a large role in Asian cultures. The need for success, the shame of “losing face,” is part of what drives their auto industry. There is little room for error, and when an error is made, it’s quickly resolved.

This isn’t to say that American-made cars are shoddily made or that American car manufacturers don’t prioritize reliability. However, it is a cultural aspect that cannot be ignored.

Some International Auto Makers Prioritize Efficiency Over Brand Image

Many people know that Mercedes-Benz is a luxury vehicle but don’t really know anything about its performance. Same with Italy’s exotic sports cars. Sure, they go fast, but is that really practical in your day-to-day life?

Automakers like Toyota, Hyundai, and Honda pride themselves on reliability––and that pride goes into every step of the car manufacturing process. By minimizing waste, streamlining efficiency, and “sticking to the basics,” these makers are able to consistently crank out reliable cars year after year.

What’s Fact and What’s Fiction?

There’s a lot of myths circulating about whether foreign-made cars are actually better. Here’s what we do know:

· Toyota is the best-selling car in the world, followed by Volkswagen. Both of these cars are Japanese and German, respectively.

· Asian automakers consistently deliver results that get high performance rates.

· French-made cars, like Audi, have a reputation for performing below average.

· Toyota and Honda get great mileage.

This isn’t to say that American cars are bad, and international cars are good. However, these facts are worth considering if you’re in the market for a new car.

In Conclusion

So, at the end of the day, whether internationally-made cars are better depends on your own personal preferences. To learn more about foreign cars and their benefits, here’s what U.S. News & World Report had to say on the matter.

Sienna Patel

Sienna Patel holds a degree in Economics from the London School of Economics and has spent 18 years in market research and product analysis. Since joining us, Sienna has shared her expertise in comparative analysis, consumer trends, and value assessments. Her background includes working in market research firms and as a freelance consumer consultant. Outside of work, Sienna is an amateur photographer and a volunteer in financial literacy programs. She is a tech enthusiast and enjoys exploring new cities and cultures.

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