Like everywhere else on the planet, new car sales are down in Japan (17 percent versus 2008 levels, to be exact). And, like a number of other countries, Japan has decided to spur automobile sales by creating a cash-for-clunkers-style program at a cost of $3.7 billion. Unlike similar programs from other countries, including the one that ended late last year in the U.S., Japan has drafted a set of rules that strongly favors its own automakers – in effect precluding American cars from qualifying for sales incentives of up to $2,830 per vehicle. Eighty-seven percent of all Japan's domestic models qualify.

By way of comparison, there were multiple C4C bills considered by U.S. policymakers, and the program that eventually went into effect allowed any and all sufficiently fuel efficient vehicles to qualify for its incentives, regardless of their country of origin. After it was all said and done, 319,300 out of a total of 677,000 (just about half) of all C4C sales were Japanese cars.

According to the Detroit News, a number of American lawmakers, including Rep. Betty Sutton, D-Ohio, have called Japan's program "discriminatory and fundamentally unfair... unacceptable and outrageous." To highlight her displeasure over Japan's insular auto market – to wit, imports make up less than five percent of all new car sales in Japan – Sutton has introduced a bill this week urging President Obama to attempt to force Japan into including American automobiles in its C4C program. What are the chances of it passing? Something about snowballs comes to mind...

[Source: Detroit News | Image: Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images]

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