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Japan Vs USA
With the Kiwi Dollar in a tumble with foreign markets, it's a tricky mission trying to find the best and most suitable deal for your build when it comes to the myriad of different parts, timeframes and shipping options available. On the one hand the exchange rate to the USA has really dropped yet shipping is cheap, yet on the other hand the YEN in Japan is great for Kiwi's yet the parts are often out of stock and hard to ship if oversized! So, where do you turn? Perhaps this will help!
Price - Japan Wins
It is fair to state that there's a price-premium when looking at Japanese parts. Where a widget from the USA is $100 to buy, that similar item from a Japanese brand will be $120. Camshafts are a good example - the USA is often a tad cheaper in like-for-like specifications.
However and with regards to camshafts - with the US Dollar 'low' and the Yen still considered 'high' - this difference is negated. Where Brian Crower, Blox and some of the other 'Tuner' type alternatives like Skunk2 and Crower used to market-lead in terms of price, they are now on or above the same price as Tomei, HKS and JUN. In fact, some of the more expensive camshaft options from the USA are up at Toda's price level - often considered one of the most expensive options out!
This is true for most parts currently made in Japan as at today. Where an exhaust was cheaper in the USA, a similar option is now cheaper in Japan. So, the moral of the story is that if you're looking for those common consumer items and price is key, then look at Japan first.
Time - USA Wins
Whilst we can't draw a bow right back to the 2008 recession as a reason why Japan still runs with a low-stock policy, it is well known that for some items there's a long production wait. We don't mean GT Body kits or custom carbon items - we mean even smaller goodies like steering wheels, wheels - even manifolds!
Many Japanese brands use boutique suppliers for their goodies. If you imagine that there were many boutique suppliers stocking shelves and that the recession put a halt to that, then it's fair to say that Japan is on perpetual catch-up. Even the Japanese Government has admitted that the economy is stagnant! Therefore the supply issues won't be addressed any time soon as it is currently less risky and more economical to make items as they are ordered.
So that leaves us with the USA as the winner. Prior to 2000, many of the US Brands were supplied by lesser-quality South East Asian manufacturers. Now, most of the best-known products are entirely made and supported in the USA. Because production and sales are often under the one roof, turn-around is much quicker even for out-of-stock or custom items. This often gives them a win in terms of timing and that represents a better option when it comes to quickly-needed parts!
Shipping - It's A Tie!
When it comes to the cost of shipping - it's a tie. When it comes to oversized freight - the USA wins. When it comes to speed - Japan wins!
We've tracked many a DHL box from the USA that makes use of the USA -> Hong Kong -> Australia -> New Zealand route, while at the same time a similar box with DHL leaving a day later arrives a day sooner. In fact, in Christmas 2014, a box from the USA on DHL air took a whopping 21 days. A similar box to Italy a month earlier took 20 days - also through 4 countries. Yet the next box was here from the USA in 3 days flat! It's a real lottery, and not one we can bank on!
Japan conversely is very consistent. Both EMS and DHL are a 3-4 day service. Items leaving Japan will even make it to New Zealand just as fast as if they bounced through Australia or Hong Kong first. A clear winner!
As noted above, when it comes to oversized items, the USA wins hands down. It's far quicker, simpler and cheaper than Japan - so factor this in to your considerations if a hood or bodykit is next on the list! We have had an exception to this current rule and that was during the port strikes in the USA from November 2014 to April 2015 - when no containers left at all!
There are expensive hurdles to export from Japan which are not known to the lay-person, and this is why you see virtually no business offer oversized goods either Japan-side or New Zealand-side.
Quality - It's A Tie!
As we touched on above, the supply chain for US brands prior to 2000 was - for a significant part - out of South East Asia. Much still is - but such time has passed now that even the most basic of parts from this region has gone through a few iterations and quality upgrades to put them level with similar entry-level goodies from Japan. And with most of the top brands in the US now using their own (or US-Based) production facilities, the quality has gone up that much further.
Japan still wears the quality crown, but value for money goes a long way with the USA. In some cases, US options are still cheaper than Japan and this gap in pricing helps to overcome the small shortfall in quality, placing it up there overall. Think of it as a battle between a Corvette Stingray and a supercharged Audi RS6 - two ways to get to the same level! The top brands from Japan are as yet unmatched - when you think of the quality ASM carbon work, or the speed and quality of a brand new body kit release, or the likes of Toda engine components - then there are still clear winners from Japan. However, if you factor in value-for-money, the USA stacks up just fine.
Support - USA Wins
Things go wrong. Items can show up damaged. Incorrect boxes may be sent. A rush may be needed. The finish may not be perfect. Production issues can stall items. So who provides the best support? Overall, the USA wins and it stems primarily from their higher stock levels and ease of communication.
Japanese business has large components of respect, quality and brand-preservation. When there's an issue, the interest is in preserving the relationship and reputation of the brand and this slows down the remedial process. Often, the focus is not so customer-orientated and more reputation-orientated. Japaneses business like to ensure they're covered before tip-toeing through a solution.
In the US, a solution or two will be available quite quickly and this helps to fall in line with our Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA), which customers are covered by here. While the solutions may not be the ultimate option chosen, it quickly forms a dialog which both customers and businesses can kick off with, rather than having to wait while the intricacies are sorted - as in Japan.
Therefore the support offered by the US brands has always been quicker and more familiar, as it generally sits in line with what people expect with the CGA.
We all know of those smaller brands, niche brands and cheaper brands that either re-badge another manufacturers' goods or who make their own, yet focus on price not quality. They've been around forever and there are still plenty of great options that exist in this realm. For the above argument, we've focused on the quality options from the US and Japan. By 'quality', we mean that they are of excellent provenance and of great reputation.
However, there are some brands and suppliers - especially from South Korea and Taiwan - who lead the market in some instances or who are on par with the best of Europe, Japan and the USA. If you also consider that some of the most revered brands use the previously mentioned countries as a source of their raw materials or finished parts, then it's no wonder that they're coming up in the marketplace with great deals to be had.
The good old Kiwi is driven mostly by price and they'll sit tight when it comes to getting what they really want. If price is your motivating factor then Japan is - for the most part - the better bet right now. If it's quality then you cannot go wrong with either.
So, we hope that this helps with any decision you're wanting to make when it comes to choosing which path to go down to support your build. And, we hope that with the daily changes in the economy, that we've highlighted where the bargains are at the moment so that you can save a coin or two!
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