What Bubbles Left Behind in the Japanese Automobile Industry

As Japan’s bubble economy, which began with the real estate boom in the 1980s, collapsed in the 1990s, Japan is experiencing an ultra-long economic downturn called the “lost 20 years” and the “lost 30 years” beyond the so-called “lost decade.”

However, the Japanese automobile industry, which temporarily had a huge amount of cash as the bubble economy reached its peak, has lavishly used the money. Participation alone jumped into the motorsport stage around the world, which costs a lot of money, and the foundation for motorsports in Korea, which had been continuously cultivated since the revival of the Japanese automobile industry in the 1960s, was strengthened. In addition, he lavished money on the development of high-performance sports cars that are extremely marketable compared to investment costs.

The cars made in this way are Japan’s top three sports cars that are recognized worldwide beyond the JDM (Japanese domestic vehicle) today. They are also the cars that would have caught your eye at least once, especially for the generation who were interested in cars but grew up watching the early series of the 2000s cartoon “Initial D” or the movie “Fast and Furious.” In the last article, it is the last story of the first NSX, the second main character of this series of projects, Honda Motor Company’s masterpiece sports car (hereinafter referred to as Honda).

In 1990, five years after research began in the 1980s and began full-scale development in 1985, Honda NSX finally began full-scale production. In September 1990, Honda launched the mass-production NSX in the Japanese domestic market and began selling it under the Accura brand in the U.S. market.

Honda NSX boasted the highest price of a mass-produced car produced by a Japanese automobile manufacturer at the time as well as Honda. In addition to the five-year development period, various new technologies such as the entire aluminum body structure were introduced, and many of their own parts were used that hardly considered compatibility with their mass-produced vehicles. The unprecedented concept of a “human-centered sports car,” not the previous “performance-oriented sports car,” and a huge investment to realize it, have emerged as prices.

When NSX was released in 1990, the basic price of the vehicle started at 8 million yen based on the specification of a five-speed manual transmission. This was about 42.59 million won in terms of the yen-won exchange rate at the time of 1990, and about 114 million won in terms of 2021 value. The four-speed automatic transmission model started at 8.6 million yen (about 45.78 million won in exchange rate at the time and 122 million won in 2021 conversion value), and the automatic transmission model was included as a basic specification, not an option.

The powertrain pairs a C30A-type 3.0 V6 DOHC gasoline engine with a manual five-speed or automatic four-speed transmission. The maximum power is the same as 280 horsepower/7,300 rpm for the 5-speed manual transmission, 265 horsepower/6,800 rpm for the 4-speed automatic transmission, and the maximum torque is 30.0 kg.m/5,400 rpm.

In its early debut, Honda NSX began to sell in popularity, despite being evaluated for its powertrain performance being inferior to its competitors, along with its incredibly high price. In particular, as many as 3,000 units were sold in the first year of 1991, in the North American market, which entered with the launch of the Acura brand.

Honda continued to improve NSX while maintaining its merchantability. In 1992, through order production, a custom plan that could apply top-quality leather interior materials and wood trims was introduced, while in 1995, the company steadily improved its productivity by adding an F-matique that supports manual transmission with a dedicated gearbox mounted on a steering column. Of course, in this process, the basic NSX rose to 8.3 million yen, and the NSX Type-T with the Targa loop was priced at 9.6 million yen.