It’s no secret that over the last couple of years since Covid came screaming out of China, the JDM market has seen its modern classics increasing in value. From the legendary Nissan Skyline R34 all the way through to the motorsport bred Honda NSX; anything that packs a performance engine has become increasingly popular with prices reflecting the market demand.
But why, suddenly, are these slices of 90’s nostalgia seeing a renaissance? With the world on the brink of an electric vehicle mass adoption and gas prices on the rise, it seems a little counterintuitive. But if we look at the contributing factors, it does make sense.
Covid slapped down the new car market
During the initial outbreak, new car sales declined as people were increasingly working from home and counting the pennies until there was a clearer picture of what may happen over the coming months. While a lot of people felt the pinch of the shrinking economy, there were others that found with the reduced monthly spend on leisure time activities they had pounds stacking up in the bank.
Now, historically, declining new car sales have always had a positive impact on the used car market. JDM imports were not excluded from this phenomenon. While people had more time on their hands most started thinking about taking on that JDM project they always wanted to do. Coupled with the fact we all had increased screen time due to Boris locking us in our homes, we had more time to daydream about buying that icon we always wanted.
The market is opening to America
America has restrictions on what can be imported. Specifically, anything that wasn’t available in the USDM (US Domestic Market) couldn’t be imported for 25 years until the vehicle in question lapsed out of the emissions testing regulations. So, our US cousins have been looking at the Japanese auctions and salivating at the thought of being able to legally own one of these absolute legends.
This year, the Toyota Chaser JZX100 is now legal to import into the US, and in a couple of years the Nissan R34 Skyline will also be able to be imported without fear of it being crushed by the feds. With Chasers now flowing over to the US, the R34 Skyline is being bought up by American consumers and being dry stored in Japan until they are ready to go. The price rise isn’t slowing down and people are locking in prices, even with high storage fees, to ensure they are getting one at the best possible price.
The prior point brings us neatly here. Investment. While new cars have historically been seen as a depreciating asset, the JDM legends and modern classics are actually increasing in value at a steady rate. Our calculations based on our own sales data and data from GTR Registry show a healthy increase (with slight variations depending on make and model) of around 6% to 8% a year, at a conservative estimate.
While banks are struggling to give us a good interest rate and shafting us on savings accounts, people are turning to physical assets like brick and mortar and, in this case, metal and horsepower. And it’s not getting any better for the banks, the Bank of England recently reported that average interest rates are down under 2% and falling. So, let’s look at those figures, shall we?
If you had £25,000 to pop into a savings account, you would accrue £375 at an interest rate of 1.5%.
Now, let’s say you put £25,000 into a JDM legend like the R34 GTT. At the upper end of the scale, with value increasing, 8% would return you £2,000 in a year (if you ever decided to sell that is). For us, it’s become a bit of a no-brainer, have something fun to drive on the weekend that’s appreciating on your driveway? Yes, please!
(Note: this is not financial advice, just our opinion!)
With the electric vehicle market gearing up to the global scale and governments preparing their infrastructure for mass adoption there seems to be a fear of the last hurrah for petrol vehicles. In our opinion, people may be feeling the need to own one of these modern classics before they are relegated to the scrap pile. But we don’t think this is coming anytime soon, and in fact, we don’t feel they will ever really go away.
Petroleum is big business and even if the electric vehicle market does take off, there will still be a market for second-hand petroleum vehicles. The UK government wants to ban the production and sale of solely petroleum fuelled new vehicles from 2030 onwards. However, electric vehicle production has its own environmental problems that are still being debated (precious metal mining, human rights violations, battery recycling) and until we can safely resolve those issues and care for our environment without trading one perceived evil for another our much-loved classics won’t be going away.
The further we get from the golden age, the more we look back and wish for a return to the design choices of the ’90s. Look at the recent releases that are being announced by our Japanese cousins. The new Nissan 400Z was a big disappointment for us, and the even more recent Honda Integra was a huge letdown.
We appreciate the need for design to move with current trends, but this doesn’t mean manufacturers need to water down their performance offerings to appeal to a wider audience. Both of those recent announcements had glimpses of callbacks to their prior models but instead looked like a bastardization of what they once were rather than being a homage to greatness. And to be clear, we weren’t disappointed with what’s under the hood, the function was great, but the form lacked in a big way.
So, with designers losing sight of what once made their cars great people are increasingly wanting to capture their own little piece of the lightning in a bottle that was the 90s Japanese car market, and we really can’t blame them for that!
With these points considered, the rising prices do make a lot of sense. Governments, media and manufacturers are constantly battering us from all sides with rules, regulations, sales pressure to buy into something we don’t necessarily need or want, and increasingly bland modern car offerings. For us, at least, we want some respite from that and if we find our moments of joy behind the wheel of our favourite piece of 90s Japan then we’ll carry on doing so until we can be offered something just as good if not better…