To determine if the Miata is a JDM car, we must first understand what JDM really refers to.
JDM doesn’t just mean ‘any Japanese car’.
It has a specific meaning, referring to cars – or variants of cars – specifically built for sale when new to the Japanese Domestic Market (however, some people do now use the term to refer to any ‘interesting’ Japanese car e.g. performance, VIP etc)
For example, the Lexus LS 400 is not JDM; that was an export car. The JDM version of that car is the Toyota Celsior.
You can learn a lot more about the meaning of JDM here.
But armed with that definition in mind, what does it mean for the Mazda Miata?
One Car, Many Names, Many Markets
This is where things get a bit more confusing, but we will try to keep the explanation simple.
The “Mazda MX-5 Miata” (as it is properly known in the American market – but typically just called Miata) is the North American version of the “Mazda MX-5”. The Mazda MX-5 is the formal name for Mazda’s legendary two seat convertible/roadster, and in some export markets such as New Zealand and the United Kingdom, it is sold as the “Mazda MX-5”.
However, none of these cars are truly JDM!
There are JDM Miatas/MX-5s, but these cars were sold new in Japan under the name ‘Mazda Roadster’ (or – for the first NA generation – the ‘Eunos Roadster’ … we are currently working on a more detailed article about the Eunos name, but basically it was Mazda’s attempt at establishing a higher end brand name)
Mazda Roadsters are proper JDM variants, and can vary in terms of trim and specification to export MX-5s/Miatas.
Here in New Zealand, we see a lot of ‘Roadsters’ that are imported and sold variously as MX-5s (despite the Roadster badging).
For example, here’s a listing of an NC generation Mazda Roadster that was originally a JDM car that has since been imported to New Zealand:
To cut a long story short, there are “JDM Miatas” but they are called something else (e.g. Eunos Roadster for the first/NA generation, and Mazda Roadster thereafter once the Eunos name was retired) and these comply with Japanese rules and regulations like having right hand drive steering wheel placement, 180 km/h speedos, and other mechanical and aesthetic differences – you can learn more in our comprehensive MX-5/Miata buyer’s guide and history.
In other words:
- If your Miata is a “North American new” car (i.e. sold with the steering wheel on the left hand side of the car to allow you to drive normally) then your car is definitely not JDM.
- If your MX-5 was sold new in an export market like NZ, UK etc, then it is not JDM.
- If you live in a market where ‘grey’ imports from Japan are common, and your car is badged ‘Roadster’ then it probably is a JDM car that has found its way onto your local roads – a vehicle import history check will usually confirm this (e.g. the example NC-generation car shown above)
Conclusion – Is The Miata A JDM Car?
No, the Mazda Miata is NOT a JDM car.
JDM refers specifically to cars (or variants of cars) built for the Japanese Domestic Market.
In the Japanese Domestic Market, the Miata is actually called the ‘Roadster’, as in Eunos Roadster or Mazda Roadster.
In countries like New Zealand where there are many used Japanese import vehicles on the roads, it is not at all uncommon to see a JDM ‘Roadster’ driving around (although nine times out of ten the owner will still refer to it as an MX-5).
If you’d like to learn more about the Miata/MX-5/Roadster, then make sure to read our comprehensive buyer’s guide and model history here.