What The Hell Is Trump Talking About With Japan Dropping Bowling Balls On Cars?

Illustration for article titled What The Hell Is Trump Talking About With Japan Dropping Bowling Balls On Cars?

Yesterday, in a speech given to donors in Missouri, President Trump had something to say about cars. And Japan. And bowling balls. Specifically, he suggested that, in Japan, they like to drop bowling balls on cars. I wish I was making this up, because it’s comedy gold. But it’s real, and the President really suggested that bowling balls are being dropped on car hoods in Japan, on purpose.

Oh, and before anyone starts bitching about writing about politics on a car blog, let me remind you that the President of the United States made a statement about dropping bowling balls on car hoods. If that’s not worth covering on a car blog, what the hell is?

Let’s get the full context of what’s going on here: Trump was discussing the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, and how he felt it was unfair to American interests. To illustrate his point, Trump told this anecdote about Japan’s allegedly overly-strict automobile inspection process:

“It’s the bowling ball test. They take a bowling ball from 20 feet up in the air and drop it on the hood of the car. If the hood dents, the car doesn’t qualify. It’s horrible.”


Uhhh. What?

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. That doesn’t just mean no American car, that means no Japanese, German, Dutch, Swedish, or, hell, even Martian car could pass. If you drop a bowling ball on a car’s hood—assuming that hood isn’t six inches thick or made of Adamantium or Vibranium—it dents.

Here, look for yourself—this one even uses a Japanese car:

The question remains about exactly what dark, forgotten corner of his ass did President Trump pull this ridiculous story? Maybe he thinks because of Japan’s long struggles with Godzillas and other Kaiju, they have greater (and for us, unreasonable) expectations for their cars to handle falling rubble?


Some have speculated that the story was intended to reference Japan’s inspection processes directly, though even that’s sort of a stretch. You can read the TPP agreement concerning Motor Vehicle Technical Regulations, Standards and Conformity Assessment Procedures here:

Illustration for article titled What The Hell Is Trump Talking About With Japan Dropping Bowling Balls On Cars?

If you don’t feel like reading all that, I’ll save you some trouble: bowling balls (nor any similarly heavy balls, like bocce balls or cricket balls or croquet balls) are not mentioned even once.

The documents do discuss procedures for sampling exhaust emissions and testing noise emissions, and Preferential Handling Procedures, though, which is still not nearly as exciting as dropping a bowling ball on a car hood.


Does President Trump actually believe this is a real thing? He didn’t backtrack on his statement, or say anything to qualify that he was being metaphorical or anything like that.

There’s been some speculation that Trump, somehow, saw this Nissan Qashqai ad and misread it as some sort of documentary footage:

... but I’m skeptical of that. I mean, that’s not a U.S.-market car or ad, and none of the cars being damaged with bowling balls are American, and, even more so, I think if you told President Trump the word “Qashqai” he’d probably have you deported.


So, was he just making shit up? Like he did when he talked to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau? Is that okay now, for some reason? To just say things ex recto?

I don’t know. Maybe he’s mistaken this “bowling ball test” for Japan’s notorious Comprehensive Quality Test, where every imported American car is crammed full of rabid weasels while baskets of anvils coated in wasabi are dumped on the hood, trunk, and roof. If there’s any dents, scratches, or rips in the upholstery, the car isn’t allowed on the Japanese market.


And that test is totally true. Well, at least as true as the bowling ball test.

Bowling Ball Test. Ridiculous.

(UPDATE) In a well-researched article at the Washington Post, they’re as baffled as we are (they checked the movie Gung Ho, even, but no bowling balls) but someone reached out to them with a plausible theory:


The theory is that it’s possible Trump was thinking of this test where dummy heads are fired at car fronts to simulate pedestrian impacts:

I mean, that’s sort of close, though it’s performed for all cars, Japanese ones included, not just for American imports. Maybe that’s what he’s thinking of?

Illustration for article titled What The Hell Is Trump Talking About With Japan Dropping Bowling Balls On Cars?

This could be it. That’s a bowling-ball-like thing there. If this is it, Trump is either completely misunderstanding the purpose of the test (pedestrian safety, not a protectionist tool to keep imports out) or he’s willfully obfuscating the test.


Either way, not great.

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus, 2020 Changli EV • Not-so-running: 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!: https://rb.gy/udnqhh)

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Someone ask him to explain the chicken tax next. Please, someone ask hi to explain the chicken tax next.