Here’s a good one for anoraks. Japan is an island that drives on left, just like the UK. So why is it that some cars, even some British ones, get to be shipped to Japan and sold as left-hookers?
The new Jaguar XF can be ordered in Japan in both left-hand drive and right-hand drive. An interesting option, you might think – but what’s the point?
The answer, initially, is economics. “Our German competitors offer and get significant left-hand-drive volume,” explains Jaguar Japan President, David Blume. So Jag has to do the same to compete. Simple.
As for the slightly broader question of “Why?”, that requires a trip into the Japanese car-buying psyche. It turns out that Jaguar has been offering left-hand drive XJs and XKs in right-hand-drive Japan for decades.
Japan’s love affair with left-hand drive began in the '70s and '80s when it was considered a very cool thing to have a Porsche, BMW or Mercedes with the wheel on the ‘wrong’ side. Left-hand drive gave status. It was different, exclusive and exotic – even if a bit impractical.
These days, left-hand drive is not nearly as popular as it was, but some well-heeled Japanese still go for it, believing the cachet is still there, and that cars designed for left-hand drive work better that way instead of being converted. (Although whether that still applies to Jaguar is an interesting question.)
Some Japanese with more than one car want them all to have the steering wheel on the same side, hence the continued demand for left-hookers. Which is why both left- and right-hand drive XFs will be roaming the streets of Tokyo.