How Did Imports Become Popular in the US?

Posted by Carmine's ®

The Rise of Toyota and Honda

Before the 1970s, Americans loved buying American-made cars. The Big Three were completely dominant in the U.S. market, and foreign manufacturers had a hard time getting any traction here. What changed? Why are import cars so popular today? The story of how imports, especially from Japan, became sensations is a truly remarkable one.

Before the 70s

The U.S. played a significant role in the progression of cars. In America, the Big Three (Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler) were building a huge number of vehicles out of Detroit. The vehicles coming from Motor City were big, they were powerful, and they guzzled fuel. However, gas was cheap, and Americans were happy with their cars.

The Gas Crisis

gas linesIn the 1970s, several major oil crises rocked the world. All of a sudden, driving around in a big, American car was not feasible on most people’s budgets. It didn’t matter how fun that V8 as if it cost a fortune in gas and maintenance. Coming to the rescue were small, well-made Japanese cars.

The Japanese automakers were building fuel-efficient cars that crushed American cars at the pump. Furthermore, import auto maintenance was much cheaper. So, Americans could afford cars again. This led to a massive surge in import popularity.

The 1980s and Beyond

After developing a strong foothold, Japanese manufacturers started building factories in America. European brands also started gaining more headway with American buyers. After decades of dominance by the Big Three, it became cool to own an import. It didn’t hurt that the American brands were struggling to make good-quality vehicles in the 80s.


Import and domestic brands are more or less on the same level for economy and quality. Most imported cars are built in America. Toyota even exports some vehicles from America to Japan. Nonetheless, to this day, there is a perception that European and Japanese brands build better cars.

Servicing Your Car

If you love your import and want to keep it on the road for as long as possible, bring it to Carmine’s Import Service in Kernersville, NC. We have extensive experience with European and other import vehicles. We can help you with all your import auto repair and maintenance needs. Visit our convenient location on West Mountain Street or schedule an appointment online.