Down on the Street... in Tokyo: Kei Cars

Illustration for article titled Down on the Street... in Tokyo: Kei Cars

We delayed this as long as possible, putting all of you into crushing fits of suspense, finally we give the people what they want - kei cars. These loveable, huggable, sub-sub-compact cars are popular for many reasons. The biggest reason for the niche is that they avoid pesky tax and insurance rates by virtue of their diminutive size. That size also serves an alternate purpose; Tokyo has roads that would make a hardened San Francisco road warrior break into a cold sweat. Roads are steep, they are windy, and they are incredibly narrow at times. Sometimes the only way to carry crates of Ramen, buckets of fish, and platters of raw horse meat (delicious) to their destinations is with the help of a mighty keitruck. To borrow a phrase from Gizmodo's Adam Frucci, "For all your most adorable cargo."


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Its not up to the NHTSA to initiate crash testing programs, manufacturers or importers must apply to both the NHTSA and EPA for licenses to sell their cars here, then submit vehicles for testing. The whole process is quite expensive and time consuming, I've heard it costs around $20 million just to conduct the tests, plus whatever design changes are needed to comply.

Many of those kei cars simply can't meet US safety standards at all, and of course, couldn't pass our emissions tests because their ECUs aren't readable by our equipment.

As classic cars are exempt from all EPA and NHTSA standards, what we really ought to lobby for is a reduction in the age requirement from 25 years to 15 years, the standard used in Canada. That would at least make the Nissan Figaro legal.

Better still would be a complete repeal of all federal motor vehicle safety standards, which would allow consumers to decide whether they want safe cars or not, based on the much superior IIHS standards.