Monday, November 21, 2011

1988 Daihatsu Charade CLX - Even The Japanese Make Mistakes...

The title of this post is a bit misleading. The Charade, for what it was, was not a mistake. Daihatsu's timing and US marketing plan was.

Daihatsu was the last Japanese car company to take a shot at the US market. Their basic plan was to sell the Charade as an upscale mini. They touted its "BMW like build quality" and made references to it being a second car, or commuter car, for BMW, Audi, Saab, Volvo, Mercedes-Benz owners.

That was their first mistake. This was 1988. Gas prices were falling and people with money often used their BMW, Audi, Saab, Volvo, Mercedes-Benz as a second car to their Range Rover or Jeep Grand Wagoneer. They didn't need or want a tiny 3 cylinder car, even if it did get over 40 MPG. The people who did need and want a small, fuel efficient car - students, etc. - often found the Charade's price - over $6000.00 - too much to pay.

Part of this strategy may have had to do with the import quotas placed on Japanese cars in the 1980s. Daihatsu was allowed to bring roughly 12,000 cars into the US per year. Not being able to sell in volume, Daihatsu had to maximize the profit of each car sold.

Daihatsu's small, regional based, dealer network didn't help things either. Here in New England, where we love - and tend to buy - imports and slightly off-beat cars, there were no dealerships. The same held true for the Midwest, parts of the Mid-Atlantic and parts of the South.

The last mistake was, of course, the name. One of Webster’s definitions of charade is "a pretense or fiction that can be seen through readily; a travesty." 'Nuff said.

The sad part is that the Charade really was a well built car. It was relatively roomy and comfortable. When ordered with the CLX package like this one, it was well appointed with power windows and locks, air conditioning and other features not found - or in some cases even offered - on the small economy cars of the day. Had Daihatsu waited 20 years to introduce a car like this to the US, they may have had a huge hit.

This Charade CLX is a survivor. It's a Texas car and the seller claims it has no rust. Being a Texas car however, means the paint is faded and the interior could use some work. The seller says it runs and drives well.

The asking price of $2,995.00 seems steep, but the seller is taking offers.

Located in Austin, TX, click here to see the eBay listing.


Anonymous said...

Isn't Daihatsu Korean?

Just A Car Geek said...

No, it's Japanese. It's a division of Toyota.

Unknown said...

i have one in my garage in the moment. its a great car but... make sure you get the 5 speed. but it needs a bit more help go to ebay and look for the turbo kit. without it its a bit asthmatic.

Pacific Boeki said...

I do agree with the mistakes you pointed. I have myself used this car and I faced the same issues with it.