Did you know that Taipei, Taiwan was once known as Taihoku, Japan?!
Okay, before I get into it, let me start off by saying, “yes, I agree, JDM is cool.” When I first got into the import performance scene, all we had was JDM. In the ‘90s, two words summed up trying to find parts for your import car in the U.S.: “good luck.” Back then the only references we had were copies of Option
magazine purchased from the Japanese bookstores, and those were few and far between. Hell, to this day, I still don't think there are Japanese bookstores in the Midwest. Thank God our industry has evolved.
I don't know if it’s still the case, but lots of JDM fanboys believe that most JDM parts are actually made in Japan. Yes, there are JDM parts that are actually made in Japan, but I would dare to say that most are not. Like the U.S., Japan is a developed country that manufactures less and less. Strict pollution laws and high labor costs are what force more developed countries like the U.S. and Japan to outsource.
With respect to aftermarket car parts, one country that has very close ties to Japan is Taiwan. Many people do not realize that Taiwan was an imperial colony of Japan from 1895-1945. Though some Taiwanese look back at this period of imperial rule with disdain, the fact remains that the Japanese were instrumental in the industrialization of the island; they extended the railroads and other transportation networks, built an extensive sanitation system, and revised the public school system; indeed, there are certain elements of Japanese culture that are deeply ingrained in the national identity of the Taiwanese. It is undeniable that, even to this day, Taiwan remains heavily influenced by Japanese culture. Undoubtedly, Japan has been an important factor in the development of industrialized Taiwan. There have always been significant amounts of Japanese-owned companies that represent a wide cross-section of industries with manufacturing bases in Taiwan. And over the years, Japanese technology and quality management systems have been integrated into Taiwanese companies. In fact, Taiwan has become a leading manufacturer in, not only the automotive industry, but also the high-tech semi-conductor and electronics industries.
Another interesting point to make note of is that Taiwan is particularly well-suited for producing parts for the performance aftermarket. The performance aftermarket is a niche market. It is defined by high product variety and relatively low volumes, which I would define as production runs of less than 1000 units. The majority of Taiwanese factories are small by nature and rely on a tightly knit network of manufacturing partners that each specialize in their own part of the production process. This decentralized approach to manufacturing works well in Taiwan since the factories tend to group together in pockets. And different pockets are never far away from one another since Taiwan is geographically small—just a bit bigger than New Jersey.
So which of your coveted JDM aftermarket companies are selling you parts that are actually made in Taiwan? How about all of them? Well, almost. Here’s a short list of just some of the companies that have their parts manufactured in Taiwan. How do I know? For starters, I've been to these places, first-hand, and I've seen each of these companies' products, packaging, and drawings within the facilities. So here you go:
HKS, GReddy, A’PEXi, Vision, Tomei, JUN, TODA, TEIN, RSR, HPI
And I’m sure I’m forgetting many others that I’ve seen over the years.
It is indisputable now that much of JDM = MIT (Made in Taiwan).
Oops. Did I just shatter Humpty Dumpty for some of you? Sorry! But it’s all true!
So, are Skunk2 parts also made in Taiwan (among other places)? Well, what do you think? (But FYI, we also have parts made in EU, South America, Thailand, China, Vietnam, Canada, and the good ol’ USA.)
So what does this all mean? Not a whole lot other than a lot of good companies have their products made in Taiwan. The fact of the matter is that many OEs (original equipment) like Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Mitsubishi and others all source many of their parts from Taiwan. That's right, there are parts on your Honda that were built in Taiwan. I’m not saying that all parts that come out of Taiwan are good, because the reality is that there has been and still are bad companies that sell bad products. Because Taiwan makes so many aftermarket parts (good and bad), it’s natural that they will be blamed for the bad parts; sadly, Taiwan is never given credit for the good stuff.
The problems lie not in where things are made, but rather the company that has it made and sells it. The reality is that, in today's global economy, it really doesn't matter where a product is made as long as you can count on the company that developed it and sells it. There are too many fly-by-night companies in the aftermarket that know nothing about cars, that copy parts, and that don't provide the proper customer service and post-sales support. But we'll save that discussion for another time.
A Skunk2 enthusiast from Taipei, Taiwan sent in this picture. When I saw this picture I knew I had to blog about it. Why? Because one of the guys in the picture works as a sourcing/purchasing agent for company 'T' in Taiwan. Ironically, the last time I spoke with the sales people at 'T', USA, they honestly believed that 'T' products were made in Japan. How about, JDM=Assembled in Japan...parts made in Taiwan.