Japan's Transport Minister Seiji Maehara saying words we put into his mouth

Curiously, there was actual outrage in Congress recently over the fact that American cars were left out of Japan's version of a Cash-for-Clunkers program. We say curiously because Congress has been pretty copacetic for decades about Japan's lopsided, unfair import policies. But, when our elected officials learned that the roughly $2,500 given to Japanese consumers for their old beaters could not be put toward the purchase of a new American car, our lawmakers sprang into action.

Michigan Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow put together a bill that would have required near constant pressure on the Japanese until the program was opened up to U.S. cars. After all, during our recent Cash for Clunkers program, Japanese automakers were hugely beneficial, scoring nearly half of all Clunker-related sales (319,342 cars out of 677,000). Ultimately, it appears that Japan has caved to Stabenow's squeezing and they opened their program up.

Happy happy, joy joy time for the Detroit Three, right? Not exactly.

As it turns out, only certain small-volume cars imported under a special handling program that also meet Japan's 2010 emissions standards are eligible. Translated into English, only 700 new U.S. cars can theoretically be sold to Japanese consumers under this legislation, including the Ford Escape, Cadillac CTS and Chrysler Grand Voyager. But hey, at least Congress is happy. A symbolic victory is still a victory, no?

[Source: Automotive News – sub. req. | Image: Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty]