We’re all aware that Donald Trump is prone to flights of fancy and holds a number of frankly quite weird beliefs which don’t seem rooted in any kind of observable reality. But even by those lofty standards this is a weird one: the president seems currently obsessed with the fact the Japanese test cars by dropping bowling balls on them.
Despite the fact that is clearly absurd and isn’t based on… well, literally anything, the president said it in the middle of a fundraising speech, according to to The Washington Post:
He accused Japan of using gimmicks to deny U.S. auto companies access to its consumers, said South Korea was taking advantage of outdated trade rules even though its economy was strong and said China had single-handedly rebuilt itself on the back of its trade surplus with the United States.
“It’s called the bowling ball test; do you know what that is? That’s where they take a bowling ball from 20 feet up in the air and they drop it on the hood of the car,” Trump said of Japan. “And if the hood dents, then the car doesn’t qualify. Well, guess what, the roof dented a little bit, and they said, nope, this car doesn’t qualify. It’s horrible, the way we’re treated. It’s horrible.” It was unclear what he was talking about.
The entire interview features Trump’s strange comments about trade – including the frank admission he made up facts while talking to Justin Trudeau – but most people right now are fixating on this so-called ‘bowling ball test’. What? What is that?
As reporters tried to work out what the hell he was even on about with that one, it was revealed by a Trump staffer that the president is kind of fixated on this.
Trump aide tells me he frequently mentions in meetings about the Japanese dropping bowling balls on cars. No one knows exactly where he got the story from.— Josh Dawsey (@jdawsey1) March 15, 2018
So is it true? Do the Japanese drop bowling balls on American cars to prove they are unworthy of being imported? Well, there’s absolutely no evidence that this is the case, but it must have come from somewhere. Some people are pointing to this old Nissan ad in which a bowling ball is dropped on a car, suggesting that it somehow was interpolated as a political point in Trump’s damaged brain:
Social media users have also dug up a vaguely similar test done on Japanese vehicles in which a dummy head is fired at the hood at a high velocity. It’s not a bowling ball… but maybe that’s what he’s thinking of? We’re being very generous here. It’s not meant to test the hood, but to determine how much damage is done to the head, as a way of testing possible passenger collisions.
White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders has addressed Trump’s mysterious bowling ball test – by suggesting the president was actually joking:
The President has been talking about unfair trade practices for decades. It is not new for him. Part of the reason he was elected was to end unfair trade practices and push for free, fair and reciprocal trade so American goods can compete in more foreign markets. Obviously, he is joking about this particular test but it illustrates the creative ways some countries are able to keep American goods out of their markets.
Hmm. I don’t think he was joking.