naturally i am generalizing and it's MHO, but I would say that currently the public perception is as follows:
German made cars have the reputation of having a soul, fun-to-drive, good handling
Japanese cars are reliabile (gas and go), and a good value, but not exciting
American cars are at best of average quality. there are some stand-outs, but on the whole below average in quality.
What was the perception during the 60's?
German cars: i have no idea
Japanese cars: i think they just started making cars. And the cars they did make, were they of low quality?? sort of like the history of Korean cars??
American cars: I think of muscle cars. was this their greatest era? were these cars considered the best?
During the 50's:
German cars: no idea
Japanese cars: i don't think they made cars yet.
American cars: muscle cars again?? just don't know.
so if someone out there who knows the history of cars or is a little older than me, please fill in the blanks.