WASHINGTON — President Trump’s latest claim about unfair Japanese trade practices, including a “bowling ball test,” has resulted in confusion as well as ridicule.
At a fundraiser in Missouri on Wednesday for Republican Senate candidate Josh Hawley, who is seeking to unseat incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill in the November midterm election, Trump said that the U.S. is being taken advantage by other countries. Following is an excerpt from a transcript of the private meeting released by The Washington Post:
A safety test in Japan uses a hemisphere-shaped device to simulate the head of a person being hit by a car. However, Japanese officials say they have never heard of a test in which a bowling ball is dropped on an American car.
“Look, the prime minister’s a great guy, [Shinzo] Abe. He’s a warrior. Tough, strong, smart. But I said trade isn’t so good with Japan. It’s so one-sided. They don’t take our product and we take their cars, I mean the cars and 90 percent of the cars, they just come. They need Mario Andretti to drive those cars off the boats. They come off the boats like 60 miles an hour.
“We send a car to Japan, they analyze it for four weeks before they decide to send it back because it’s not environmentally friendly. [Unintelligible.] They actually, one of the car companies actually had a car made and it was the most environmentally perfect car, cost them a fortune. They spent a fortune. And they had everything, the highest quality that you can have. Everything was far better than any car they ever sent to us. They spent three or four hundred thousand dollars for a car that would sell for like 35,000, right? Not a good deal.
“But they wanted to see if they could get it in. And it, they were going crazy. Four days went by. Then five days. And they were ready to approve it and they said, no no, we have to do one more test. It’s called the bowling ball test, do you know what that is? That’s where they take a bowling ball from 20 feet up in the air and they drop it on the hood of the car. And if the hood dents, then the car doesn’t qualify. Well, guess what, the roof dented a little bit, and they said, nope, this car doesn’t qualify. It’s horrible, the way we’re treated. It’s horrible.”
In her daily press briefing on Thursday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed that Trump was “obviously … joking about this particular test.”
But she added, “It illustrates the creative ways some countries are able to keep American goods out of their markets.”
In Tokyo on Friday, a Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry official in charge of vehicle inspections told The Japan Times that Japan has never conducted such tests.
The official speculated that Trump may have been referring to a pedestrian head protection performance test conducted by Japan’s National Agency for Automotive Safety and Victim Aid, which is designed to measure the force someone’s head would absorb if he/she is struck by a car. This involves firing a hemisphere-shaped device weighing up to 10 pounds at the hood and windshield, then recording the force. It is not a test of how resilient the car is; in fact, the more the hood gives way, the better it is for the pedestrian.
“I don’t think we have set stricter inspection standards than other countries. I think he has totally misunderstood,” the official said.
“I have never heard of such a test,” Honda Motor Co. spokesman Hajime Kaneko told The Japan Times. “If we did that, I think our cars would also dent.”
There is also speculation that Trump may have seen a Nissan Qashqai commercial in which bowling balls bounce down a city street, damaging several parked cars.
Among Japanese Twitter users, one said that Trump’s statement was “too stupid for words,” while another wrote, “If there is a car which won’t dent after a bowling ball falls on it from six meters up in the air, I want that car!”
Jalopnik blogger Jason Torchinsky wrote, “Look, if Japan had some sort of national drop-bowling-balls-on-cars test, you can be damn sure we’d know about it. I’m pretty sure we’d be publishing YouTube videos of Japanese bowling ball tests every chance we got. There’s also the issue that this is a test that literally no car ever would pass.”