Japanese car advertisements are fun to watch, especially old ones. Often rife with funny tropes, or showcases for hit songs, or weird celebrity cameos (Bruce Willis’ Subaru ads, anyone?). I can spend literal days on YouTube looking at advertisements from other countries. This Ford Japan one brought me a particular dose of joy, you have to check it out.
The allure of old Japanese advertisements doesn’t just apply solely to Japanese brands. In the 1990s, Ford had a concentrated effort to move cars in Japan and had the marketing to back it up.
Ford decided to try selling the second-generation Taurus in Japan. I guess, in an attempt to get Japanese citizens out of their Toyota Crestas or Honda Rafagas, they brought over the big and blobby sedan, in unadulterated left-hand-drive form. Did Japanese people take Ford up on that offer in droves? Ha, no.
Still, the advertisement campaign was weirdly charming. Nearly every Ford Japan ad starts off with a “THIS IS MY CAAAR” tagline and jingle, wooing customers into choosing an American car over the homegrown (and superior) competition. These ads are only 15 seconds long, and yet, “THIS IS MY CAAAR” is an earworm that buries itself in your brain, only to resurface the next time you see a ’90s Ford.
This one has a slightly different song, but it’s still cute:
Japan’s car market has been accused of being closed, which may or may not be true. Vehicle tax brackets are based on physical size in Japan, a majority of western vehicles of the era were often too long or too wide to be competitive on price. For example, the ill-conceived Toyota Cavalier (yes, it’s a Chevy Cavalier with some Toyota badges), a direct competitor for the Toyota Corolla in the U.S., was actually a few tax brackets up from the JDM Corolla. These size-based tax brackets still exist today; it’s the reason why the current generation Japanese-market Toyota corolla is actually a completely different car than the American and European version, despite looking similar.
Ford’s efforts in 1990s Japan included the European Mondeo, likely a British import since it was sold with right-hand drive, the Ford Laser (a restyled Mazda 323), the Ford Explorer, and some other rebranded Mazdas. Like the Taurus, all of those ads have the oh-so-charming “THIS IS MY CAAAR.”
Interestingly, Ford also tried to leverage its Japanese presence as a selling point in American ads. The angle was essentially: “So you like import cars? Well, in Japan the Taurus is an import and they love it!” That sad was, sadly, sans jingle. Take a look:
Ford kept trying to make it work in Japan, but finally called it quits in 2016 and pulled out of Japan entirely. Maybe it should have tried the “THIS IS MY CAAAR” jingle again.