VOLKSWAGEN-LAW/“I hope the next three months will be better for you than the last three," Czech ambassador Jaromir Novotny told a gathering of Japanese car importers last month.

The way things are going, he'll be hoping against hope.

In April, Japan introduced an “eco-car” tax incentive that has left all foreign car brands such as Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and BMW, neatly outside the fence of eligibility.

It’s the last thing they need in a market that’s already full of quirks that make life difficult for non-Japanese car brands: the existence of a huge and unique 660cc microcar segment, convoluted recycling laws and stringent regulations against what type of materials can be used in fuel tanks, to name just a few.

No one is complaining about incentivising low-emission cars. But what rankles outsiders is that the perks are based on an outdated fuel economy testing method that critics say is a poor reflection of real-life driving.

“It’s so far from reality that we never bothered to tune our cars to get good readings under this method,” an executive at a European carmaker told me. “And now they’ve hit us with this eco-car tax and even if we wanted to make the adjustments, it would take us until next year to be ready.”