(first posted 10/5/2014) What a difference twenty years makes. The eighties was the Japanese decade, when they were going to take over the US, if not the world. They bought prime real estate assets like Rockefeller Center and Pebble Beach. They wrote books telling the US how to fix its problems. And their car makers were swamping the US like a tsunami. The last of the holdouts, Daihatsu, finally showed up on our shores at a rather inauspicious time: 1988, one year before the great Japanese stock market collapse. Did Daihatsu’s failure and retreat in 1992 have to do more with Japanese hubris in trying to sell a “BMW quality” Geo Metro, or was the Charade just an overpriced charade? Or is there a difference?
Let’s just say that among other things, Daihatsu’s timing generally wasn’t so hot, and their judgment questionable. Gasoline prices had been dropping all through the eighties. Buyers were abandoning small hatches for bigger cars and SUVs, and the Geo/Chevy Metro (Suzuki Swift) pretty much had the bottom feeder market to itself, modest sized and priced as it was. But Daihatsu priced the Charade substantially above the Metro, despite its similar size and 1.0 liter 3 cylinder engine. And Korea was sending over the Festiva, Pontiac LeMans and Hyundai Excel.
Daihatsu tried to create an upscale image for the Charade, making references to “BMW style quality” in a small car. Well, it was the time that Toyota peaked in terms of content quality, and as Toyota’s captive mini-maker, Daihatsu probably and rightfully tagged along. American car mags generally agreed in their tests of the Charade, duly impressed in its build and material quality. Its interior alone looks more Camry than Metro. The little three pot impressed with its flat torque curve and eager-beaver demeanor, even if objective performance wasn’t significantly different from the Metro. And forget about smoothness with only three cylinders.
I have to admit to rather liking the styling of the Charade, and it did exude a more substantial image than the lowly Geo, probably in part to its significantly wider stance. And its handling was pretty consistently praised too; with a little more power and style, the Charade could have been the Mini of its day. Perhaps that’s what it was trying to do, but it came off way too business-like and with not near enough self-conscious style and verve. The Nissan Pao of the same vintage had plenty of that, but that cutie was a limited production only model, and never officially imported.
The Charade was built in a turbocharged version, the GTi, with a whopping 100hp, but not for us. And a little turbo-diesel was also available in other markets. Speaking of Daihatsu’s other markets, it wasn’t just the US that they retreated from. In 2005, they pulled the plug on their Australian operations, after some forty years. And this past year, they announced a phased withdrawal from all of Europe by 2013. Daihatsu once had quite a presence there.
Toyota took a minority ownership stake in Daihatsu in 1967, and upped that to 51% in 1999. Daihatsu was the source for kei-cars for Toyota, allowing it to not spread its resources into that narrow segment. But there has always been an overlap with Daihatsu’s larger cars, many of them having been Toyota rebadges. That’s not the case with the Charade, but Toyota’s Tercel was clearly stepping all over it, especially in the US. And Daihatsu’s recent retreats suggest that it will eventually be absorbed fully into the Toyota family, except perhaps as a brand in Japan.
Daihatsu added a four-door sedan sometime along its brief four-year assault on the US market, and in addition to the two extra doors it also sported an extra cylinder, to/and boot. They also sold the rugged Rocky, a compact Jeepster also just a cut above the popular Suzuki Samurai. Anecdotal evidence suggests the Charade had typical Toyota reliability from that era, as there are a fair number of them still on the streets on the West Coast. Considering that only some 15k units were sold in 1989, that tends to support that supposition. Try finding a Peugeot 405 today, another victim of the US market about the same time as Daihatsu. I’ll keep looking for the 405, but it didn’t take much to stumble on these Charades.
There is something about this car that appeals to me. Strange, for a land-yacht guy like me. Maybe I just have a teeny thing for small, basic, durable, economical little cars. The closest thing I ever owned to one of these was an 83 Colt sedan (a car of opportunity rather than the result of any planning).
I don’t think that they ever had much of a presence in the midwest. I cannot recall seeing one in a long time. But maybe I just didn’t notice. These would have been coming in during a big influx of new nameplates, so maybe I just wasn’t paying attention. A shame, because hindsight tells me that this is one small car that I could love.
According to a 1992 New York Times article I found online, Daihatsu never had any dealers in the Midwest or Northeast.
Interesting. I saw a few around Madison, WI when I was a kid in the early 90’s but with the University of Wisconsin being in town, they easily could have come in from other parts of the country.
They had a very small presence, even in the foreign-car-loving world of Southern California… what really doom Daihatsu was the lack of a dealer network & the fact that there were very few trained Daihatsu mechanics; not to mention negligible availability of NOS or junkyard replacement stuff… in fact, my buddy owned one. His comment: “Nice car… but where the heck to you get parts?”
Are there a 1989 six-cylinder daihatsu ? Or just 3 and 4 cylinder ?
Just threes and fours. Triples are a fairly common small engine layout in Japan.
I could proudly say , I owned a 5 door hatchback 1989 Daihatsu Charade. it was my first car in the Philippines. I was 21. I bought it used. Just added fuel injector after 2 years of driving it. Got married in 1999 and still driving the car. For my last hurrah in the PI, we drove it for 10 days in the mountaneaous northern region of the Phils. My American husband was very impressed of the car that he called it the little engine that could. I now live in the US and just heard from my son that he got it out from hibernation, few fixing and its on the road again! He told me that the engine is still pretty strong. I will post video and pics after my son finish reviving it.
Wonderful, neat little cars – pity they couldn’t compete. Not at all helped by some of the most lackluster television advertising I ever saw. You’d think Consumer Report wrote their advertising for them. No flash, no sizzle, if you weren’t watching for it on the tube, you’d miss it completely.
Aside thought: What’s with the constant slagging on the Geo Metro? Remember, folks, it was the cheapest car (or bloody close) available in America at the time. And for what you paid, it was a hell of a good car. I certainly loved the one I had back in the ’90’s.
Bet ya if the hood had said Toyota or Nissan, there wouldn’t be half as many begrudging comments. However it’s a Geo/Chevy – slag away, of course all their stuff was crap!
Folks slag the Geo Metro because: 1. the motors self-destructed at 100,000 miles 2. the interior quality was terrible 3. they only cost $1,000 less than the bottom-level Honda… and the Civic was a FAR superior car in terms of reliability and build quality, with only slightly worse fuel mileage.
If you’ll indulge me If like to mention the Geo Metro I had briefly in 2003.
It was a 1993 5-speed hatch. It was that 1993 green because of course it was. Manual everything. Had clear plastic for a passenger door window.
Had 250,000 miles on it. Got it with no oil showing on the dipstick. All its tires were low. The air filter was probably original as I’ve never seen one so full of gunk. I bought it for $500 because I was impressed with how it had endured under such neglect. Plus I only had $500.
I gave it some basic maintenance to get it straight. It got over 40 mpg for me with mainly highway. 75 mph felt like you were really pushing the envelope. The clear plastic window would fill up like a sail and try to push you into the next lane at speed. I’m 6 ft. tall and it fit me well enough. The clutch was very easy, as was the steering and brakes. It was fun to zip around in. But it was replaced with a slightly more “real” car after a few months. The month after I sold it the timing belt broke for the new owner. So good timing for me there. He got it fixed and drove it for a couple more years.
So I respect the Metro. It was a well-designed and tough little s**t.
The whole Daihatsu experiment was rather poorly timed, something we hadn’t expected from a Japanese carmaker, especially one aligned with Toyota. IIRC, these were priced a cut above the rest of the field, and at that time the competition was intense. With the aforementioned Geo Metro, there was an internecine rival, the Tercel, the Mitsubishi/Dodge/Plymouth Colt, Suzuki Swift, Mazda 323, Yugo, Golf, Civic, the lower end versions of the Escort and Cavalier. I’m pretty sure I’ve forgotten a few. But the illustration is clear.
I remember my impressions upon seeing the car, that it was very nicely assembled, but it was a 3 cylinder priced against 4 cylinder cars. All of the ones I had ever seen were very much like the subject car here. Austere is the word that comes to mind. Considering the list above, many of them had a hot hatch variant and at least a much nicer trim level you could opt for. Not so much with the Charade.
I get the feeling that after Toyota got 51% ownership, they weren’t about to let their flagship brand’s cars fight with other cars from the same corporation. An excellent strategy. But of course that means one less choice for the consumer. A shame they couldn’t gain traction in this market, but it appears it wasn’t meant to be.
best little hatch of the 80’s, but concur, Metros are neat cars also.
This is what should be in the picture with the word hubris beneath it. In that era, made in Japan takes on near mystical reputation, and unfortunately, Daihatsu seem to take in the hubris to heart. The only redeeming quality of this car was that it was made in Japan. Daihatsu always did crappy, low rent interior, and their reliability was always second-rate for Japanese automakes, but they somehow got it in their head that their economy products can compete with premium makes, while featuring little else besides made in Japan. Though they were meticulously assembled, in the era where most other economy cars were assembled with sheer indifference. I guess American customers just weren’t willing to pay as much for assembly quality as they initially believed, and they went back to Japan with tails between their legs.
I wanted them all to work. I had driven beetles before they were cool and something that would get close to 50mpg (geo) was miraculous to me. I guess we got to the point where the government mandates designed the car and now nobody is getting there.
Having lived in Japan I knew that daihatsu is/was a respected brand. I wanted it to be successful and then “poof”, it was gone.
Every 3-cylinder car entering the museum, the dismantling yard, tended to sell a lot of parts.
Some buyers explicitly stated the parts purchase of replaceable items eventually requiring replacement due to normal wear and tear, were to have them in case the used part supply for those itty-bitty critters dried up.
A couple were sold in entirety with the buyer using a flat-bed trailer to haul the thing off.
A fun time was had by all.
Sell an entire car and it freed up space for another vehicle.
This exciting tale of long-ago brought to you by the Disgruntled Old Coot accepting monetary donations for past efforts at keeping the USA populace motoring serenely down the highways.
Remember; all cars and trucks run on used parts.
This was the basic one, but I seem to remember there being a more upscale sporty Charade too, with alloy wheels and more body colored trim.
I always though they styling of these kinda aped the 1984 Civic hatch.
I can’t comment on the reliability of the Charades, but the government installation where I worked had a fleet of Daihatsu kei pickups for on-base use, and those little rats stood up to a lot of abuse from people who after all weren’t driving their own vehicles.
I have NEVER seen one of these in my area. (I live in MA, by the way – were they even sold nationwide, or just on the West Coast?)
I have seen lots of Daihatsus in Europe, though.
Interesting how Hyundai apparently stained Daihatsu’s reputation in the US, and then look at how each of the two companies is doing now. Shocking.
And, according to the article, Daihatsu indeed had no dealers in the Northeast or Midwest.
“C. R. (Dick) Brown, Daihatsu America’s chief operating officer, said that to this day, consumers confused the car company with Hyundai, a Korean car maker, because of the common “dai” in their names. When quality problems arose in early Hyundai products, Daihatsu was tarnished with the same reputation, he said.”
I suppose it is odd for English speakers to hear the sound “die” in a little car’s name. As in, “Die-hot-soo, is that anything like hari-kari?” But I never thought of that before. Maybe a subliminal effect? Nah.
Lame excuse for a dumb idea. It wasn’t that long ago that the number of cylinders was the #1 characteristic of a car to Americans. As in “six” or “eight”. Maybe “four”. Never “three”, except at the very bottom of the ladder. Not to anyone raised on big, smooth V-8s.
I think the Metro/Swift twins just had more going for them. I remember when the Swift was released, there were aftermarket performance parts for them.
I think the Metro/Swift is a success because they’re cheap and not at all ashamed about it. Daihatsu wants to be a “premium” small car without much of premium qualities except a meticulous built quality. Lack of dealer coverage didn’t help much either.
Mini has proven that it’s possible to do a small premium cars, though the cars have to have qualities beyond that of a basic transportation. Did the Charades feature premium styling? No, it looks like the typical small car, looks like a competitor to Tercels, Geo Metros and the like. Did it feature premium features? No, it does not have ABS or premium stereos or sunroofs, I guess that’s about as far as premium features go back then, heated seats, electronic gizmos and HID headlamps is still years in the future.
Build quality is kinda hard to sell at the showroom, you kinda have to experience it for a while, then experience the opposite before you notice it. I am sure some of those Charade owners feel the pang of regret once they switched to other economy cars of the era, too bad by then Daihatsu in America has come and gone.
My local Porsche-Audi-BMW dealer picked up a Daihatsu franchise. I think it just confused long time customers. I also doubt value buyers wanted to contemplate Porsche labor rates for their $10,000 cars. It wasn’t long before the dealership changed ownership, and general perception seemed to be that the Daihatsu franchise contributed to the long-time owner’s downfall, although there were also stories of an ill-timed expansion to a less favorable locale.
My experience with the Daihatsu is similar to that of CJinSD, except in this case the brand was picked up by a local Volvo-Volkswagen dealership. This particular dealership was notorious for its sales staff: Attractive, college-aged men who were well-trained in extreme arrogance.
Being out of college for a few years and getting established in my chosen career, I really, really wanted to buy into the idea of a simple, yet beautifully built and appointed automobile. But I couldn’t possibly get past the dealer’s $1,000 “adjusted market value” sticker pasted next to the Monroney sticker. There was no way in hell I was paying a 10% premium on any car, much less one that just landed on our shores.
Fortunately my “bullshit detector” was fairly well developed by that time, despite my tender age. I ended up going across the street and plunking down about the same amount of money for a loaded, five-speed Corolla LE, which I owned for years with no regrets. Within two years, that particular dealership was in bankruptcy, and not long afterward, Daihatsu folded up its tent and left the U.S. market. I’d hate to think where I’d have ended up if I’d been stuck with that Charade.
Ironically, that Corolla was my first and last Toyota product, unless you count the 205 Pontiac Vibe I bought at an extreme discount, and then used my “GM pickup sidesaddle fuel tank settlement” coupon to further sweeten the deal.
I don’t have any experience with the US version of these, but a ton with the Chinese one, they called it the XiaLi. Daihatsu made them in TianJin through a joint venture, and they were extremely popular as cabs in Beijing in the 90s. Back then they were the mid-level option, with a breadvan taxi at the low end and a VW Santana at the high end. Chinese auto manufacturing was in its infancy, but I recall the Jeeps, VWs and Audi’s being relatively well screwed together. The Daihatsus were not. All of the style and none of the build quality.
Admittedly, most of my experience was with beaten up cabs, but I remember getting into a brand-spankin’-new one and noticing that it had the same jarring ride and clutch shudder from a start that all the rest had.
I’d always wanted to drive one and finally got the chance while traveling in the far northeast. We hired a cabbie to take us around for the day, and after a long lunch of pig stew and many rounds of baijiu (kerosene rice wine), he let me drive. The ride was colored by my five martini lunch, but bombing down country back roads on a spring afternoon in that rattle-trap old car was damn good fun.
Here’s a shot of two, one hatchback and one sedan. The sedan is sporting the face-lifted grille.
They dumped the car long time ago
One of my college roommates had one of these when they were new (1990 or 91 in this case) in Central California. I had an ’86 Isuzu I-mark at the time. My car was slightly larger, but hers drove significantly better, I remember thinking that it looked nicer inside as well and the materials were distinctly better than I would expect in something like this. Handled great (or at least fun), but the 3cylinder was a bit buzzy. She killed the car a couple of years later when she hit a bear (!) head-on. Good memories, I remember looking for one for myself a few years later in San Francisco as an extra in-town commuter car but never found one that was in good enough shape.
Nissan Pao’s older sister, the Nissan Be-1, had even more “Mini” vibe, complete with 12-inch wheels (I’d say it’s got more classic Mini flair than even the modern supersized BMW MINI)
The Japanese-English tag line Nissan used for the Be-1? “Emotional Liter Car” (it had 987cc engine displacement)
There’s the three-pot comparison made, between the Metro and Charade…but, frankly, it’s not a fair one. First, the Metro was ubiquitous – the loss leader rental at Budget and other “value” rental agencies. That got them out on the street – and that does matter; I saw a few Daihatsus in California when doing my Navy time there in the early 1990s; but never, ever in my native Midwest.
Second, the Metro – especially in Gen-II – was a fair amount more sleek than this thing. Even the first generation, to my eye, comes off a winner.
Third: The Metro may not have been 100 percent quality; but the 1990-94s were a kick to drive. Especially the two-doors with five-speeds. The seat went back enough to fit my six-two frame; the unassisted steering quick and precise. And that is a rarity. Three-pot,rough? Not overly so. And with its gearing, seemed zippy.
Yes, it’s true the car was a disposable appliance. So it goes; the reality is, most people who buy these little things find they either really need more room or do so in the future. So it goes…
…and so Daihatsu goes away, too. Now, the more-discriminating owners have spent top-dollar for a quality kei-car with nonexistent support. Mister Goodwrench is anything but perfect; but at least he’s there; and has a parts book.
I was a passenger in one of these. Nothing memorable about it. Its the perfect car for cost accountants, or an actuary. Its the perfect car for the driver without personality.
Lots of these still on gods green island both 3 & 4 cylinders they seem to keep going until the tin worm infestations get to great.
These Were $8-8500 to start , when a 4 cylinder Toyota Tercel was 6995, Honda Civic Started at under 7, Sentras started at 5995
the metros were under 7 complete with a nice purple violet paint option IIRC year im not sure of.
The Sprint and The Storm also Competed in the under 8,000 market , mostly at Chevy stores iirc
“And Korea was sending over the Festiva, Pontiac LeMans and Hyundai Excel.”
I could’ve sworn that the LeMans was a rebadge of the last made Opel Kadett. Was the engine Korean sourced such as what was found in the Festiva?
Here’s the full story: https://www.curbsideclassic.com/curbside-classics-american/curbside-classic-1990-pontiac-lemans-the-lows-and-rocky-mountain-highs-of-gms-deadly-sin-12/
The Charade platform spawned many a Chinese model.The best selling Geely Freedom Cruiser in Ukraine is one.
I remember back when people were stuck with these and no warranty since the company went south. It was an orphan before its name could be pronounced.
I remember the marketing referring to these as “the Mercedes Benz of small cars” That was an open invitation for ridicule…Ironically, Daewoo (Korean) came along a few years later, and tanked also. It’s interesting to see that the Japanese no longer walk on water–witness the departures of Isuzu, Suzuki, and potentially, Mitsubishi. And the great sudden-acceleration debacle over at Lexus/Toyota. Nowadays, good ole’ Buick outsells Acura and Infinity.
Yes, the good ol’ Japanese brands. Peaked in the eighties and early nineties, covered all car segments back then. Look at them now, they sell a decent number of A and B segment cars, and that’s about it. With the exception of Toyota and Mazda they might as well leave the continent. Honda, Suzuki, Subaru and Mitsubishi: all reduced to a shadow of its former self. And Nissan has only a Qashqai to sell. I can’t even remember seeing a brand new Subaru in the past year or so.
Here in New England these were always rare, although I have seen a hatch around here
An ex GFs father had a turbo Charade they use the same bottom end as the diesel and as such are unbreakable Gregs certainly was he drove it at the redline for most of the time he had it eventually trading it on a Laser 4WD turbo (Mazda Familia to you).
When I worked in Honolulu in the early 90s a colleague and friend had one, an 88 GSX (?). High spec model in high 80s white with actually quite nice grey cloth interior. She was very hard on the car – had bought in in Miami and driven it to LA, which boggled the mind, before moving to the islands and having the car shipped. I spent a day cleaning the filthy thing as a favour, and apart from fading paint and general not-quite-benign neglect, the car was quite a fun little driver and vastly superior to the (Geo) Metros/Suzuki Swifts and Festivas of the time.
While I see a good many late 80s survivors here in Dallas, I never see these. As much as today’s urban chic Minis, Smarts, Fiat 500s, Fiestas and Mazda 2s can be found here today, back then – 25 years ago – DFW was a hugely different place…
I remember seeing these in Florida when I lived down there. I always thought the name was unfortunate. Charade? Cambridge on-line dictionary says “an act or event that is obviously false, although represented as true: ” Doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in a new brand…
CC effect strikes back! I saw one of these in the exact same color on either Dort or Dixie Highway just a few days ago. Talk about being shocked beyond belief!
This created quite a buzz in Sweden, for a couple of years, they were the “it”-car to have. We didn’t get the most basic variants, but the slightly more exclusively fitted mid-range models. And they were classy enough to appeaI to high and low alike.
I remember a father of a friend of mine, trading in their family Volvo 740 wagon for a couple of matching his and hers five-door Charade Turbos of this vintage. He remarked that the running costs of both cars equalled the costs of the one Volvo, but I always took that with a grain of salt.
Counter intuitive as it seemed, trading the Volvo for those two Charades was actually quite a hip and bold move to do in the Volvo stronghold that Sweden once was.
Never rode in one of these Daihatsu’s. Do remember the huge emblems/ window lettering announcing the brand of the car. On the west coast they appeared and disappeared quickly. The parts manager had a Le Man’s automatic for a demo when I worked for a VW/Pontiac dealer in 1989. He said she liked it but it was always in need of some repair and calling that pos a Le Mans was a huge insult.
I remember when the Daihatsu Charade made its North American debut. I was hoping the Daihatsu would stick around long enough for me to buy one, maybe even the Daihatsu Rocky SUV that came with it. Imagine my deep disappointment when it left. I’m not against SUVs, but not everyone needs such big, heavy vehicles. Car companies need to offer a variety of vehicles to suit different needs and wants. And to pull out just because a few people don’t buy? Chicken!!!! 🙁
Didn’t you mean a Peugeot 505? The newest 504s sold in the US or Canada were already getting old by the time the Charade was marketed in the US!
Any Peugeot car is now a rare sight where I live in Canada but I don’t even think the Daihatsu Charade was even imported here. If it was, it was certainly marginal as I don’t recall ever seeing one on this side of the border!
As for 504s, the last ones I saw were in a junkyard, quite a few years ago (see the picture below!)… I really like the style of these cars! But the only Peugeot I ever owned are a bicycle and a pepper mill (and I still have both!).
I did a double take there too. I’m assuming Paul mistyped and meant the 405? That was roughly contemporary with the little Charade.
Oddly enough you’re far more likely to see a 405 still plying the roads here in Scotland (there are a handful local to me in Edinburgh) than you are a Charade of this vintage (honestly don’t know when I last saw one, though the odd one of it’s early 00’s namesake is about).
Up in the Highlands and Islands I’ve seen several biodiesel conversions that were old 405s… The big Pugs are known for being – especially in diesel form – mechanically very rugged and – especially in diesel form – they sold in far greater numbers here than the little Daihatsu did.
I’ve not been grabbing CCs myself much lately but a quick Google finds one snapped rumbling up the Royal Mile in 2012 (implausibly tailed by a similar vintage Vauxhall Cavalier, but the parked TX4 cabs and the Citroen DS3 visible behind them all date it as recent) via cagiva1994‘s stream on flickr.
I meant 405.
Very nice article. Daihatsus I thought were much better assembled than a majority of their competitors. Korean companies make fairly good cars these days but in the 80/90s, they were just getting started – and it showed. If you ever saw a Pontiac LeMans (Daewoo) or Ford Festiva (Kia), you’d know they fell apart as soon as they were driven off the lot.
Daihatsus are still very popular here in Japan – the Tanto kei van is a top seller. And the recently updated Copen kei roadster is very nice……..
Ford Festiva (Kia), you’d know they fell apart as soon as they were driven off the lot
Festiva – 20 years. 350,000 miles. A fantastic vehicle as long as you got the wide tires and the five speed manual. I still see them on the road today.
Daihatsu was too much money for a three banger. While it did appear to be a decent car, the Festiva LX was loaded for $6999, and ran for an entire generation.
These Charades were very popular in Ireland. It was the first 3-cylinder car I was aware of. Twenty five years later and even BMW has discovered 3-cylinder engines !
Whenever I visit the in-laws in Fort Myers, Florida I look for a curiously well kept circa 1990 Festiva I always see parked near a nearby Italian restaurant. Still serving daily commute duty without fail, obviously….Sort of like today’s Corolla, Charades were a terrible car that would last seemingly forever with minimal care (which of course made them a wonderful car for many people)….
Back when my then new VW GTI 16v had returned for several warranty issues, I recall one time the service dept manager named Wolfgang provided me with a 92 Charade loaner. It was a neat little car. I found the shifter smooth, the car seemed well insulated from noise. The instrument panel was very solid and well laid out. Door trim exceptional. I think the only thing that hurt these cars was they were dorky. There was too much competition. The price was Civic like.. And the Civic had a reputation as well as peppier all round moves.
Had the turbo came out.. I may have opted for one over the 87 Turbo Chevrolet Sprint I bought in 93 after the GTI was repoed. That Sprint was a great (and fast) little car for the nearly 20 yrs I owned it.
In 1986, the Chevy dealer I worked for announced they were purchasing “2 exciting import franchises to boost sales”. As a car salesman, I was thrilled to hear it as pushing mid-eighties GM products was wearing on my soul. Who would be joining the party?? They leaked that one was European and the other Japanese —JAPANESE!!! The Holy Grail of 80s car sales! I was saved! I could finally stop hiding on the back lot every time one of my sales was towed back in for repairs, angry customer close behind! Eventually, they made the big announcement in a combined sales/service meeting—and the “winners” were………………. Peugeot and Daihatsu! I quit on the spot.
What a coincedence! I saw a white one driving past today, driven by an old lady. I can’t remember last time I saw one of these.
What I do remember are fond memories of this car. Back in the early 2000’s my mother had a red one, and I spent some time as a kid in the backseat in one of these. I can still remember the smell and especially the typical noise/sound the engine made.
These were considered aspirational cars in their size class in Japan as well. Case in point; there was a Sergio Tacchini edition, which is essentially a direct equivalent of the same era Fila Thunderbird over here. Young and upwardly mobile was the target (is there anything more 1980’s then a tennis tie-in?):
The last one of these I saw in atlanta was driven by a parent when I was teaching at McNair middle in south Fulton in 2001. (If you teach at McNair, nothing worse can happen to you for the rest of your life.) I was excited cos it was such a rare car.
Daihatsu might have had some success had it been launched in 1979, or even 1984, but not 1989. Cars were getting substantially larger and better equipped by 1989. An 89 civic was available with luxury features inconceivable only a few years earlier. The accord had grown to midsize status. There wasn’t much room in the market for a tiny, three cylinder, expensive car when much larger and better equipped models could be had for less money. We bought an 89 Sundance, before the america versions, and it was quite luxuriously trimmed with very nice upholstery, soft dash and panels and steering wheel, the 2.5 liter engine, air, automatic, lots of courtesy lights and vanity mirrors, and I think it was around $8000. It was dead reliable too, except for the air conditioner. You could throw a dart at a dart board and with few exceptions, anything would have been better than a daihatsu.
As a couple of people stated, hyundai really hurt daihatsu. People who had experiences with them new furrin brands like yugo and Hyundai were not willing to take a risk on a new foreign brand. Especially given the vast array of better choices.