If you’re a car guy or gal chances are that you’ve come across the term JDM. In fact, it is probably more likely that you’ve heard it many times. You might even know that it has something to do with Japanese cars. But if you’re like me, then you probably get triggered just by the fact that you’re not really 100% certain. So, you google it and now you’re here. And that’s great since this post will cover literally everything you could possibly need to know about the term ‘JDM’. Let’s find out what the true meaning of JDM is.
This term refers to cars specifically produced and sold only in the Japanese car market. That means, that any Japanese Branded vehicle that is manufactured or sold for any other market rather than the Japanese will not be considered JDM. In order to be considered JDM, the vehicles manufactured should have the intent to be used on Japanese roads.
The Toyota Crown was only manufactured and originally sold for the Japanese market; therefore, this vehicle is considered ‘JDM’.
The Honda Civic was manufactured and sold internationally in the U.S., Europe, Australia, and Asia. Therefore, it is not considered a ‘JDM’ car.
Exceptions occur for specially manufactured vehicles. In the case of the Honda Civic, there was a special model, the Honda Civic Type R EK9. While there are other Type R made for the U.S. and European markets, this specific model was only made for the Japanese market and is therefore considered ‘JDM’.
Another exception would be an example in the case of the Toyota Supra. This model was sold in the U.S. and was manufactured according to U.S. regulations, these would not be considered JDM, rather would be considered United States Domestic Market (USDM). However, there was also the Toyota Supra manufactured for the Japanese market, following Japanese regulation, and with the intent to be used for Japanese roads. These Supra’s would be considered JDM since they were manufactured for, and with the intent to only be used for the Japanese market.
Thus if you want to own a “true” JDM vehicle, you’ll have to import it.
It is near impossible to tell who created the term ‘JDM’ and exactly when it occurred – but it is fair to say that the term started gaining traction in the late 80s and continued growth throughout the 90s. But where it really took off, and probably where most fans got into JDM was the Fast and Furious franchise, as well as video games like Need for Speed, Gran Turismo, Midnight Club, Forza Motorsport, and so on…The term also gained even more traction when the 25-year import jurisdiction passed for the Nissan R32 Skyline GT-R, which for many is the ‘Ultimate JDM Car’.
No. It is a common misconception in the U.S. regarding what is considered JDM. If you want to be politically correct, you’d separate JDM cars from USDM cars.
However, if you go to a JDM meet and act like a total PC snob about what is considered JDM and what is USDM you’ll most definitely get some weird looks and comments, people will most likely stay away from you. So, unless that’s your sort of thing I’d recommend just appreciating the cars that people brought. An awesome car is an awesome car – doesn’t matter whether it is USDM or JDM, that’s my two cents.
Well, yeah. As mentioned earlier, for a car to be considered JDM it has to manufacture and sold with the intent to only be used for Japanese roads. There are a few examples of some exceptional cars that we’re only ever considered to be used within Japan.
Back in the 70s, Toyota did not like the fact that the Japanese elite was driving foreign luxury sedans such as Mercedes, BMW, and Jaguars. Toyota’s answer was the Toyota Century. This vehicle had the sole purpose of being a status symbol and we’re only produced and sold for the Japanese market.
Another good example of a ‘true’ JDM car is ‘Kei’ car. These were very small, super light vehicles with a very small displacement engine. Thanks to this, these cars cost less to insure and owners paid less road tax. They were also incredibly fuel-efficient, and we’re excellent for city-driving as parking was very easy to find with such a small vehicle.
Click here if you want to learn more about a truly unique JDM offroader!
Most people will more often than now think about sports cars when the term JDM is mentioned. Cars like the Skyline GT-R, Toyota Supra’s, Mazda RX-7 might show up when you search for the term on Google or Youtube. But as you now have some understanding of what JDM means, you could probably guess that a car doesn’t necessarily have to be a sports car in order to be considered JDM.
In my opinion, some of the coolest JDM cars are not considered sports cars. One of my favorite JDM cars is the Mitsubishi Delica Starwagon, which basically is an offroad, cab-over van. It has some really cool quirks and features, and I think it looks absolutely amazing. I know not everyone shares my view, but I rather take a second look at the Delica Starwagon than at a Toyota Supra, almost everyone knows what the Supra is, the same can’t be said for the Delica Starwagon – and there are many other cool JDM cars that are not sports cars, like the Toyota Century, Nissan President, Honda Beat, and Suzuki Mighty Boy.
Why is there even a term? Why is there not a term for American or European cars? While there are some differences between regulations between the U.S. and Europe, they are more similar than different. The same can’t be said for the Japanese car market.
Back in Japan, there was a completely different demand for cars. After WW2, Japan’s economy was not in great shape. The call for smaller, cheaper, and more fuel-efficient vehicles were in demand. This recipe continued to be used throughout Japan’s automobile industry. In the eyes of foreigners, these vehicles got to be considered ‘unique’ and ‘quirky’. Because these vehicles were hard to come by, and since only a minority knew about them, they had to give these types of vehicles a term, hence the term JDM. The term gathered traction in the 90s and exploded in the 00s thanks to movies and video games.
If the amount of Google searches for ‘JDM’ would be an indication of the popularity then if we were to look at an 18-year period popularity peaked in March 2004. Ever since it has been on a downward trend but gained some large interest around 2011-2012 probably thanks to the release of the Fast and Furious Five movie. In November of 2019, the trend changed direction and is now headed for an upward trend, indicating an increased interest in JDM-related search queries. If you want to know more about why JDM is so popular, continue reading here.
JDM Culture is the thing I base this entire blog upon. JDM Culture is similar to other cultures in the sense that it brings comradery, friendship, and a touch of appreciation. If we’re talking car culture in general, I’ve never felt as welcome as I have been in the JDM community. I don’t want to talk down on other car cultures, but I’ve gotten a sense of jealousy and dislike, something which I’ve never experienced within the JDM community. So, while the JDM culture is based on JDM cars, and I do love JDM cars, one of the reasons I keep it so close is because of the people within the community. On behalf of myself and hopefully everyone else in this community I urge you to give us a try, we’re nice guys and gals!
They say the longer you wait for something, the better it gets. The desire to have something that you know you can’t have might be a familiar feeling for some.
Americans have waited for a long time to be able to drive JDM vehicles on American grounds. In fact, in order to import JDM vehicles into the U.S., it has to be 25 years old by the month of manufacturing. If you read this in the 2000s and wanted a Skyline then I’d have bad news for you. But you’re reading this in 2022, and thus, you can now import JDM vehicles into the U.S up to the 1997-year model. And what does that mean? You can now import some of the following cars:
Here you can read more about some of the most underrated JDM cars!
JDM is not just a term for us in the car community, it is something more. For some, it’s a way of life, for others it’s just a way to do something on the weekend. And it’s funny you know, I remember being at a local car meet, and there was a total mix of cars – mostly European, but some American and JDM vehicles too. And there was this guy, with this awesome little Honda Beat, which most people did not even give a second look. But then, about 45 minutes into the meet, another freaking Honda Beat shows up out of nowhere. And these guys see each other, but there was no parking for the second guy. So, the first guy takes his parked Honda Beat and parks outside the meet just so that the other guy could park next to him. And you could see them chatting it up, showing each other’s engine bays and modifications, it was a nice sight.
Did they know each other? I don’t know, they might have, but they looked surprised seeing each other nonetheless. And that for me, is one of my most prized car memories to date.
If you’ve read this far, I just want to thank you, and I hope this post did not disappoint – take it easy on the roads!
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