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Japan-exclusive Kei Cars, Why Not Export it to Other Markets?

Many Kei cars are attractive to car enthusiasts because they are small but well-equipped.

Japan-exclusive Kei Cars

Kei Car is a name exclusively for mini cars in the Japanese market. Many Japanese car manufacturers launch such small and cute cars for their home market, which often attracts the attention of local car fans because many Kei Cars are small but well-equipped. So why not introduce them to other markets?

In this article, we'll take a look at the history of Kei cars. In 1945, when World War II had just ended, Japan was left with a lot of waste and scarce resources, and people couldn't afford too large and too expensive a car. Kei cars were born out of that background. In fact, at first, the Kei cars only had a displacement of 150cc. As time passed and people's demands for power increased, so did the displacement of Kei cars. Until 1990 when the Japanese government raised the standard to 660cc. Still in use today.

Originally, Kei Cars were created so that more people could own their own cars at a low price. However, with the recovery of Japan's economy, the population has exploded, land demand has increased, and parking spaces have become increasingly scarce. As a result, Kei Cars have become the first choice for Japanese people to buy cars because of their convenient parking and other conveniences.

Japan-exclusive Kei Cars

The Japanese government seeks to promote the purchase of compact cars like the Kei car to minimize parking space requirements in urban areas. The government offers tax rebates and cheap insurance to citizens who purchase Kei cars but also sets strict standards for these vehicles. For example, Kei cars must not exceed 660 cc displacement, their bodies cannot exceed 3,400 mm in length or 1,480 mm in width, or 2,000 mm in height, and they are limited to 64 PS maximum horsepower. Owners of personal Kei cars display license plates with blue letters on a white background; commercial owners use yellow characters on a black background.

In fact, in the 1990s, Japanese automakers made a gentleman's agreement with the government regarding performance cars with a maximum horsepower of 276 Hp and a speed of no more than 180km/h. Additionally, there is also a gentleman's agreement between Japanese automakers regarding Kei cars. Self-restriction does not allow Kei cars' speed to exceed 140km/h.

Japan-exclusive Kei Cars

Japan-exclusive Kei Cars

At this point, you may ask? So good is the Kei Car that one wonders why Japanese automakers do not market them outside of Japan.

The first is the price issue. The government offers tax rebates on Kei Cars sold in Japan, but other countries do not provide tax incentives for models such as these. Take China and the United States as an example; in the United States, most consumers prefer pickups and SUVs; Chinese consumers are more inclined to buy bigger cars at a lower prices. So if the original factory really brings in Kei Cars, many people will choose other larger models at the same price.

Japan-exclusive Kei Cars

Japan-exclusive Kei Cars

Furthermore, because high-speed rail coverage is relatively high in Japan, Japanese citizens will use high-speed rail for long-distance travel, so they won't need to drive a Kei Car for long-distance driving. However, other countries aren't as suitable. For example, the frequency at which people drive far away in China and the United States is much higher than in Japan. Therefore, Kei Cars with smaller displacements will be slightly less confident when driving on highways.


Although well-equipped Kei cars are popular in native Japan and it's also convenient for Japanese consumers to use every day, they may not be suitable for the needs of other countries. If you live in a country other than Japan, would you still be interested in the popular Kei Car?

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