Small is More

Car Types in Japan

The Three Car Types in Japan

Of the 58.4 million registered cars in Japan, figures show that roughly 1 in 10 exchange hands every year. Sounds like a lot, but what type of vehicles are sold and who’s buying them?

Cars in Japan are categorised into three groups depending on their size and engine capacity, as highlighted in the image above – kei, small and standard. Within these categories, by far and away, the most popular vehicle in present day Japan are those categorized as small:

  • 31.1%or 23.47 Million Registered Small Cars.
  • 23.9%or 17.98 Million Registered Kei Cars.
  • 22.4%or 16.89 Million Registered Standard Cars.

Percentages displayed as a total of all 75.36 million registered vehicles on Japan’s roads

However, with small cars accounting for almost half of all registered vehicles in the early to mid-nineties, numbers have been decreasing year-on-year. Even with the Japanese manufacturers making increasingly smaller cars with roomier interiors and better fuel consumption, numbers in the domestic market continue to slide.

On the contrary, sales of Kei cars have soared almost two-fold throughout the noughties as manufacturers seek to entice Japan’s youth with their cute designs and lower tax rates, all at the relatively cheap price of around a million yen, new.

Standard cars on the other hand have remained relatively flat in numbers, not because of a decrease in sales, but because around three-quarters of all vehicle exports come from this category.

Which cars are popular within each category?

Whilst this is not to be used as a definite guide to the most popular cars in each category, the vehicles listed below have ranked high in the total number of sales over a number of years.

  • honda-fitHonda Fit
  • daihatsu-moveDaihatsu Move
  • toyota estimaToyota Estima

We’d be intrigued to know what your preference is. Kei, small or standard? Feel free to share in the comments section below.


Deciding on a name…


Deciding on a name for a new company these days is rather complicated. Naturally, the name should not only depict the company values, but be available to source a .com domain and all available social media. And so, after several months of thought, we arrived at the name Motovique.

So, you may ask, what exactly does the name Motovique represent, and how did we come by such a name?

The Argo Motor Co. originally made their Cyclecar with a four cylinder 12 horsepower engine, named Motorvique.

In short, our research found that over half of all vehicles sold in Japan are either kei-cars or small hatchbacks. In order to cater for such a large proportion of the market, we decided on a name that would directly correlate with this.

Unfortunately, our first choice, runabout, was already taken by a Japanese company selling Mazda MX5’s and classic Minis. So after much head-scratching and the assistance of Google, we came across a vehicle by the name Motorvique, made in 1914 by an American company, Argo Motor Co.

The Motorvique was basically an American attempt at recreating the popular cycle cars produced across the Atlantic in Europe. Cycle cars were small, generally inexpensive cars manufactured mainly between 1910 and the late 1920s. Not wanting to tempt fate however, the Argo company, competing with a certain Henry Ford, was only operational between the years 1914-1918.

Hoping to somewhat outlast the original Motorvique, we are now accepting inquiries from private individuals wishing to buy or sell their own vehicles at a fair price.

We also give free advice for a multitude of other services such as converting to a Japanese Driver’s License, English Navigation Unit purchases and more…