Wow. Take a deep breath. New car sales in Japan has dropped 13.1 percent to the lowest level for October, 2008 in 40 years. The Japan Automobile Dealers Association says 233,922 vehicles other than mini-cars were sold in October, a decline for the third straight month.
Oh? So the good news is, Kei cars, the 660 cc engine size vehicles that are already so common in Japan, are now selling like hot cakes, no make that omochi (rice cakes).
The association of mini-car dealers, Japan Mini Vehicles Association, says October new car sales were up 6.2 percent from the same month last year, indicating that many motorists are opting for cheaper vehicles. You couldn't make these kind of stories up if you tried.New car sales are down in the United States in October, by a record 31.9 percent.
Kei cars (K-car) is what people here call their Kei Jidosha, which is Japanese for "light vehicle". You also get Kei Tora, for the "light truck" vehicles that farmers and small business owners use to get around.
Are they safe? Yes, if you drive well and not too fast. Parents picking up the kids after school know all about this. Japan's narrow roads may have something to do with it - you would never see a Kei Tora on the Express Highways in Tokyo. From what I understand, these cars are not sold in the United States, but have a keen following in many other countries, including Canada and the UK, where they have quite a fan base.
Kei cars or mini-cars are also going to cost you less at the pump, and with some of the recent cool designs, this might just be the way to go.
JAMA has more about Japanese Cars and Trucks for a Vibrant America and a Better World, including photos of the environmental contributions of Japanese car makers in the United States (and I trust you will all take that with an appropriate grain of salt).
Autoblog.com loves Kei cars:
The Automotive Researchers' & Journalists' Conference of Japan (RJC) has named the loveable little Mitsubishi "i" its 2007 Car of the Year. The quirky and compelling "i" kei car has been quite a sensation, with its unique appearance and rear-midship engine layout, garnering plenty of attention in Japan from journalists and the general public.
Written by Martin Frid at greenz.jp