eli5: why are there automotive regulations between different markets?


ex. Why does Japan give the USA the naturally aspirated and sometime lesser quality compared to their market. Why not share it’s essentially the same car? this may be stupid.

In: Other

The government safety regulations in different countries dictate a lot of car specifications.

Especially for Japanese designed cars, the US model must be designed to be left hand drive (Japan is right hand drive). Every model/engine has to be homologated (fancy word for certified and tested) to US standards. This is costly. For the more expensive variants, the market is usually fairly small so the car maker might just decide that they won’t sell enough to justify the costs.

Also, car makers cannot simply import vehicles – they must also bring in spare parts for a number of years, train the dealers/service how to repair the cars and translate/train/advertise marketing and sales people. The turbocharged x cylinder hyper tuned engine with all the fancy stuff is usually made in a special factory and the parts and training to repair will be difficult across the ocean.

Sometimes, it just doesn’t make much sense to pay many hundreds of thousands of dollars to only sell a few hundred more cars with that engine.

On top of that, the market for small cars is dying in the US. And that is even worse for the fancier models of small cars. The US market favors pickup trucks and SUVs.


It takes money to re-engineer a car for a different market. The highest quality models might not sell enough to make it worth it, and in addition, it might cost too much to re-engineer those models for markets with different requirements. In the US/Canada markets, in the 70’s and 80’s there was a push for bumpers to withstand 5mph impacts without breaking the car. This required a lot of companies to re-engineer their front bumpers to be big ugly pushbars, and any imported car needed those big bumpers too. Nowadays, most cars can do this without having ugly ass protrusions, though some supercars will technically come with these hyper ugly mini bumpers that are designed to be removed upon sale. As a result, its become fairly popular to install european spec bumpers to some cars in america to get rid of the ugly look.

The cars have to be modified to meet US standards (stuff like switching to left hand drive and meeting any safety requirements) which costs money, there is also taxes on vehicles entering different countries (iirc America has a particularly high tax) which is even more money lost, Americans also prefer large cars which means Japanese cars won’t sell as well. All of that adds up so that it isn’t worth trying to sell lots of different cars in America when they could send them somewhere else for cheaper and give the US the few models that work.

It may not be legal.

Different countries have different regulations as far as safety and emissions are concerned.

So while it may be easier and cheaper to homogenize their line up across all markets, it may not be legal. So region/country specific models need to be created in order to sell there.

Or alternatively it may not be worth the effort and vehicles may only exist in specific regions.