In our series of car cultures around the world/international street scenes, after Morocco, Africa and Monaco, Europe we’re going to yet another entirely different car culture: that of Japan. And the streets of Japan are filled with models you won’t find anywhere else, it’s an entirely different sight from the rest of the world.
For starters, there are the dozens of “Kei” cars and trucks. These are tiny cars that get certain tax benefits in Japan, but are limited in size, engine displacement and power: 3,4 meters in length (11.2 ft) and no more than 1,48 meters wide (4.9 ft), with an engine of 660 cc pumping out 47 kW (64 hp) max. More than 40% of the new cars sold in Japan falls within these limits, which calculates to more than 2 million Kei cars a year, which is more than all the cars sold in France in a year. Some of these vehicles have been exported to Europe and other countries, although they mostly featured larger engines for export markets. The only foreign manufacturer to ever have sold a Kei car in Japan was Smart, which in the early 2000’s made a special version of its Fortwo to fall within these limits, but it sold poorly. [Read more…]