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The reason is only partly that Japanese fastidiousness extends to the maintenance of cars. Rather, experts say, there really are relatively few old cars in Japan, because of an automobile inspection system that is so onerous and expensive that many people prefer to trade in a perfectly good three- or five-year-old car rather than spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars for the inspection.
The inspection system, critics say, is a case study of the regulations in Japan that benefit businesses at the expense of hard-pressed consumers. It is the type of regulation that Japan’s new Government is promising to relax as part of a major effort to improve living conditions. Consumer Group Complains
“The people who profit from this are maintenance shops and car makers,” said Fumio Matsuda, head of the Japan Automobile Consumers Union.
Japan’s 83,000 garages obtain 44 percent of their roughly $60 billion in annual revenues as a result of mandatory inspections. Automobile companies benefit because people replace their cars frequently.
Inspections are required when a car turns 3 years old, then every 2 years until the car turns 11, then every year. The inspections, which cover more than 100 items from brake function to headlight orientation, are done by a Government test center or by an authorized service station.