It's easy to tell what the aspirational cars are in Japan; just look at the output of Japanese designers, who are not at all shy about using tracing paper.
In the sixties and seventies, other than the Ferrari 275-esque Datsun Z-car, most of Japan apparently wished they were in Detroit. Sedans almost invariably looked like miniature caricatures of Studebakers and Dodges and suchlike, and things sometimes got as blatant as the early Celica sports coupes, which looked like somebody had left Larry Shinoda's Mustang drawings in the dryer for too long.
In the eighties and nineties, the target moved to Germany, with the RX-7 being a xerox of Porsche's 924 and most small passenger sedans aping either BMW or Mercedes. Witness the similarity between the mid-'80s Sentra and the 3-series Bimmer, or the Civic and the C-class Benz. (The odd one out here would be the Miata, which was a loving homage to a British roadster 20 years in the grave at the time of the MX-5's debut.) The most recent generation Toyota Camry looked like it could have been penned by Chris Bangle after he'd received the severe blow to the head he so richly deserves.
So the look of the new Nissan Maximas puzzled me... That is, until I saw one at a traffic light in Broad Ripple the other morning with a Jaguar XF behind it in line and an Aston Martin parked at a nearby curb. Ah. Of course.