Japanese domestic market

Japanese domestic market refers to Japan's home market for vehicles. For the importer, these terms refer to vehicles and parts designed to conform to Japanese regulations and to suit Japanese buyers. The term is abbreviated JDM.

Fender mirror of Toyota Celsior (UCF20 JDM)

Compared to the United States where vehicle owners are now owning vehicles for a longer period of time, with the average age of the American vehicle fleet at 10.8 years,[1] Japanese owners contend with a strict motor vehicle inspection and gray markets. According to the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile, a car in Japan travels a yearly average of over only 9,300 kilometers (5,800 miles), less than half the U.S. average of 19,200 kilometers (12,000 miles).[2]

Japanese domestic market vehicles may differ greatly from the cars that Japanese manufacturers build for export and vehicles derived from the same platforms built in other countries. The Japanese car owner looks more toward innovation than long-term ownership which forces Japanese carmakers to refine new technologies and designs first in domestic vehicles. For instance, the 2003 Honda Inspire featured the first application of Honda's Variable Cylinder Management. However, the 2003 Honda Accord V6, which was the same basic vehicle, primarily intended for the North American market, did not feature VCM, which had a poor reputation after Cadillac's attempt in the 1980s with the V8-6-4 engine. VCM was successfully introduced to the Accord V6 in its redesign for 2008.

In 1988, JDM cars were limited by voluntary self-restraints among manufacturers to 280 horsepower (PS) (276 hp) and a top speed of 180 km/h (111.8 mph), limits imposed by the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) for safety. The horsepower limit was lifted in 2004 but the speed limit of 180 km/h (111.8 mph) remains in effect. Many JDM cars have speedometers that register up to 180 km/h (111.8 mph) (certain Nissans go up to 190 km/h, and the GT-R has a mechanism that removes the speed limiter on a track) but all have speed limiters

Motorcycle Power & Speed RestrictionsEdit

For many years Japan had severe restrictions on the maximum power and speed that motorcycles could have.

All motorcycles for the Japanese domestic market were restricted to 112 mph (180 km/h).

Power restrictions were as follows [3]


  • 250cc class: 50 hp
  • 400cc class: 60 hp
  • 750cc class: 77 hp
  • over 750cc: not allowed


  • 250cc class: 40 hp
  • 400cc class: 53 hp
  • 750cc class: 77 hp
  • over 750cc: allowed, but restricted to 100 hp


Japanese carmakers do not use a Vehicle Identification Number as is common overseas. Instead, Japan uses a Frame Number—nine to twelve alphanumeric characters identifying model and serial number. For example, Frame Number SV30-0169266 breaks down as "V30" identifying the model as Toyota Camry/Vista x30; "S" identifying the engine (4S-FE), and "0169266" being the serial number of the vehicle. Vehicle make is not identified but slight number variations can identify the carmaker, i.e. Toyota usually uses seven digits for its serial numbers while Nissan uses six. Because a frame number contains far less information than a VIN, JDM vehicles also use a Model Code. As an example, SV30-BTPNK breaks down as "SV30", which means the same as above, and "BTPNK" which designates a set of features incorporated in the vehicle.

Worldwide popularityEdit


In the 90's the JDM power restrictions along with licence restrictions that made it difficult to be licensed on larger motorcycles resulted in a number of models that were not offered anywhere else in the world, with 250cc and 400cc miniature replicas of the bigger 750cc & 900cc bikes.

At the same time Japan had particularly tough laws regarding road licensing and sales regulations. Any motorcycle more powerful than 250cc had to take a extensively stringent test every two years.

Combining these factors with a virtually non-existent second hand market made it economic to export the nearly new bikes abroad where they were eagerly bought and a number of import specialists sprung up to cater for this "grey import" market of relatively inexpensive but interesting motorcycles.

In the later 90's as Japan's economy fell into recession it became less profitable to export and Japanese owners held on to their bikes for longer. The last global crash all but ended the "grey import" industry with the big specialist importers closing down.


The Japanese domestic market has been growing significantly since the late 1990s.[4] Many car enthusiasts are attracted to the Japanese domestic market in different continents such as North America, Europe, and Asia. Popular brands include Honda, Subaru, Toyota, Mazda, Suzuki, Lexus, Mitsubishi Motors and Nissan.

Ex-Japan Imports are also very common in New Zealand where 59% of vehicles registered on New Zealand roads originated from overseas markets as opposed to 41% of which were delivered NZ-New. Of this, 94% originate from Japan.[5] New Zealand imported an average of 134,834 JDM vehicles per year in the period 2015-2019,[6] the majority of which were Mazda Axela, Suzuki Swift, Nissan Tiida, Toyota Corolla and Mazda Demio.[7] Other models popular for importation in previous years include performance vehicles (Honda Tourneo, Nissan Skyline, Nissan Laurel and Toyota Altezza), and kei cars (Suzuki Carry, Daihatsu Move, Subaru R2). Due to the popularity of used imports from Japan, and their relatively low crash-test ratings, the Ministry of Transport is currently investigating tougher restrictions on imported vehicles, most notably on the importation of the Toyota Corolla, Mazda Demio and Suzuki Swift.[8]

In 2004, importing JDM cars became popular in Canada as highly sought after vehicles, such as the 1989 Nissan Skyline GT-R, became eligible to import under Canada's 15-year rule.[9] In contrast, importing grey market vehicles into the United States is much more difficult.[10] To avoid regulatory problems, most private individuals wait until EPA restrictions no longer apply to the desired vehicle, which is done on a rolling 25-year cycle.[11]

History of the termEdit

Super Street Magazine's Jonathan Wong helped popularise the term.[12]


A very common misunderstanding of the term is the false belief that JDM means Japanese produced vehicle. This is however untrue. A vehicle being manufactured in Japan does not make a vehicle JDM. JDM specifically means a vehicle that was produced with the intent of being sold in Japan, and not outside of the country. For example, the Toyota Supra MKIV was available brand new in the United States with left hand drive, and some changes to specification to comply to US law. This made it a Japanese manufactured vehicle designed to be sold new in the US market – a USDM vehicle. [13] An American market Japanese car such as Nissan 240SX is not a Japanese domestic market car as it was sold in the American domestic market. However the 240SX's Japanese market counterpart, the Nissan 180SX is a true JDM car as it was officially sold to the Japanese market via Nissan. Also some JDM cars are actually manufactured outside of Japan such as EM1 civics and Mitsubishi Eclipse which were sold in the Japanese Domestic but manufactured in America.

JDM inspired vehiclesEdit

Some car enthusiasts like to build replicas of JDM vehicles from locally available cars. For example, enthusiasts in the USA will often take a US-market EK1 or EK4 Civic, convert it from left-hand-drive to right-hand-drive and source the required parts such as the engine and gearbox from the JDM EK9 Type R - which is based on the same platform - in order to make an 'exact' copy.

However, cars such as this would not be authentic JDM cars as they would possess a United States VIN number. [14]


  1. ^ "Average length of U.S. vehicle ownership hit an all-time high". Retrieved 17 December 2013.
  2. ^ "The Automobile and Society" (PDF). FIA. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 October 2010. Retrieved 7 December 2012.
  3. ^ "Suzuki Model information". suzukicycles.org. Retrieved May 4, 2020.
  4. ^ Tsuneishi, Scott Top JDM Trends Of All Time superstreetonline.com. 2007. Retrieved Nov 3, 2014
  5. ^ "Buyers' Guide: NZ's most popular used imports". driven.co.nz. Retrieved 2019-10-10.
  6. ^ "2019 Vehicle Statistics". mmnz.biz. Retrieved 2019-10-15.
  7. ^ "New Zealand's most popular used imports". aa.co.nz. Retrieved 2019-10-15.
  8. ^ "Government considering banning three of NZ's five favourite used car models". newshub.co.nz. Retrieved 2019-10-15.
  9. ^ "JDMVIP - The Web's Unbiased Authority On The Japanese Used JDM Cars Import Scene". jdmvip.com. Retrieved 2016-04-12.
  10. ^ Doug DeMuro (18 February 2015). "Here's Everything You Need to Know About Shipping a Car to the U.S." jalopnik.com.
  11. ^ Christopher Weydert (24 June 2019). "How to Import a Car from Japan: The Ultimate Guide". jdmbuysell.com.
  12. ^ "Discussion>> West Coast Hondas & That Jdm Word - Speedhunters". speedhunters.com. 29 April 2011.
  13. ^ https://garagedreams.net/car-facts/what-does-jdm-mean-when-it-comes-to-cars
  14. ^ https://stickydiljoe.com/2012/06/05/wekfest-la-2012-coveragepart-2-the-morning/

External linksEdit