As many of you may be aware, Japan is a RHD (Right Hand Drive) vehicle country like the UK. According to Wikipedia, about 34% of the world by population drive on the left, and 66% on the right. By roadway distances, about 28% drive on the left, and 72% on the right. To visualize this:
Those in blue are RHD and those in red are LHD. The terms left or right hand drive refer to where the driver sits in the motor vehicle not where the car is on the road. So in the case of Japan, the steering wheel is on the right hand side.
Most markets that are already RHD will find much value in Japanese used vehicles. Areas such as South-East Asia, Oceania, Eastern Africa, and the British Isles are major importers. Because they use the same system as Japan, there are less hassles getting the vehicles imported. But just because a country doesn’t drive the same way as Japan doesn’t mean RHD vehicles can’t be imported.
For example, Russia is officially regulated for LHD traffic, but Japanese RHD cars are the single largest supplier of used cars to Russia. Last year over 440 thousand vehicles where exported from Japan into Russia. Russia is estimated to have more than 1.5 million RHD vehicles on its roads. In the far eastern regions, such as Vladivostok or Khabarovsk, RHD vehicles make up to 90% of the total. Many other LHD nations are also importing RHD in the thousands without any problems such as Canada, UAE, Chile, Mongolia, Cyprus, and Peru.
There are two considerations for importers. First, are RHD vehicles legally able to be imported, and more importantly, driven in your country. Even in the case that RHD autos cannot be used on your roads, many governments allow the vehicle to be modified so that it is switched to LHD.
The second consideration is if you are willing to drive “on the wrong side” or will you be able to sell cars to customers that are RHD. It is not a matter of being a safety hazard if the driver sits on the other side. A Canadian study showed that RHD drivers were more careful, thus less likely to get into accidents, than those who drove like normal.
It is also not about not getting able to feel comfortable driving RHD drive in a LHD nation. Most drivers who experience this challenge are able to overcome the awkwardness of driving differently within the first few hours on the road. The main issues are do you mind standing out a little bit and will it bring to much inconvenience to your lifestyle? For example, you’ll need a passenger to help you through drive-thru’s and at toll booths. If you don’t mind, and you can import, there are plenty of benefits.
Image and Statistics from Wikipedia under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.