A short road to success
Japan is known for its well-developed public transport network. The country’s vehicle road system, however, is considered insufficient for the number of vehicles owned in Japan. Due to a high population density and a limited amount of available land usable for road construction, further expansion is seen as problematic. The streets of Japan’s major cities are usually narrow, with few, yet expensive parking options. While many people in metropolitan regions rely on public transport or bicycles to get around on a day-to-day basis, individuals living in more suburban and rural areas depend on the usage of cars. Mini-sized vehicles are the domestic automotive industry’s response to fulfilling the demand for mobility while keeping costs comparably low and providing space-saving options.
Small size, big sales
After being introduced into the Japanese automotive market in the late 1940s, light motor vehicles quickly gained popularity. Kei cars are not only an affordable alternative to regular-sized passenger cars for private use, but are also manufactured for commercial purposes, including micro transporters, mini trucks, and small-sized welfare vehicles.
Nowadays, the majority of cars owned in Japan are light motor vehicles. While the most popular regular-sized passenger car model, the Toyota Prius, recorded a sales volume of over 125 thousand units in 2019, Honda sold more than twice as many units of its mini-sized N-Box model during the same time.
All of Japan’s major automotive manufacturers carry mini cars in their portfolio, with Daihatsu, a car maker specialized in the production of light motor vehicles, leading the race for the highest unit sales within the domestic kei car market, followed by other renowned brands such as Suzuki, Honda, and Nissan.