I have just returned from a year in Japan. Soon after arriving there I bought a second-hand Datsun station wagon for the equivalent of $400. The car ran without trouble during my entire time in Japan, and the dealer from whom I bought the car was a pleasure to deal with. Indeed, whenever I went there, I was made to feel that I was one of his most important customers. After I had arranged to sell the car to another American in Japan, he agreed to help us, without charge, to fill out the necessary papers, a task that took nearly two hours of his time.

I had been interested in bringing the car back to the United States, but was unable to find out from the U.S. embassy whether it complied with the relevant U.S. pollution and safety standards. Without much hope of an answer, I wrote a letter addressed simply to the Nissan Corporation at its offices in Tokyo. A week or so later, I received a reply from the chief engineer of the company, explaining that to his great regret that particular model did not comply with U.S. safety and pollution requirements, and that he thought it would cost too much to bring it into compliance.

Contrast that experience with what happened to me here last week.

I bought a new American station wagon from a local dealer for a little over $10,000. On getting the car home, I discovered the electric tailgate window did not work, and that the floor in front of the rear seat was covered with broken glass (the remnants of a window broken while the car was being delivered to the dealer). Two days later I noticed that one of the wheels was overheating badly and that there was a bare wire under the hood that shorted every time it touched the chassis. When I called the dealer from whom I bought the car to express my concern, his response was, "Well, what do you expect? After all, you didn't buy a Rolls Royce!"

Is it any wonder that the dollar is declining in relation to the yen?