Proposal to triple taxes on K-cars raises concerns among rural drivers

TOKYO —

“There are no supermarkets, drugstores or other shops selling necessities within walking distance of my home,” says Kentaro Hayami, a 32-year-old salaryman living in a regional city of 400,000. “This is why a ‘kei jidosha’ (minicar), with its low costs of ownership and operation, is such a necessity.”

Hayami had previously lived in Tokyo but was one of those who performed a “U-turn” and went back to his rural roots. He explains to Weekly Playboy (Dec 9) how inconvenient his life there would be were it not for the minicar he drives.

“Without it, commuting to work would become troublesome, and I’d have no access to leisure either,” Hayami adds.

Japan has approximately 20 million minicars on the road. The main reason is they enjoy favorable tax treatment that has made them the “legs of the citizens.” The ‘kei-jidosha’ system originally applied to cars with engine displacement of under 360 cubic centimeters. In 1976 the law was revised to boost displacement to 550cc and in 1990, it was increased again to 660cc.

In addition to engine limitations, minicar models are currently required to be 3.4 meters or less in body length and 1.48 meters in width. They are typically exempted from parking regulations.

Yet within these limitations, manufacturers such as Daihatsu, Suzuki and Mitsubishi Motors have succeeded in revolutionizing small car technology, creating sporty-looking models that seat four adults in comfort and provide lively performance, enabling drivers to enjoy the pleasures of ownership while at the same time consuming less fuel and generating less pollution.

Once regarded as a “gaman-kuruma” that owners tolerated because they couldn’t afford anything better, they are more popular than ever: according to industry statistics, of the 3.82 million new passenger cars sold in Japan from January through October of this year, K-cars accounted for 1.42 million—a 37.1% share.

Now the question is, will this popularity come screeching to a halt? The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, in a report made public earlier in November, proposed a new tax system that would make minicar owners pay their “fair share” of vehicle taxes.

A draft of the proposal calls for abolition of the current one-time vehicle acquisition tax of 40,500 yen on minicars, replacing it instead with a consumption tax—slated to rise to 10% in 2015, at which time it would be approximately 150,000 yen per vehicle. In addition, the annual tax on minicars, currently just 7,200 yen per year, would rise more than threefold to 24,500 yen, thereby narrowing the current tax gap between compact cars with displacements under one liter (whose owners pay 29,500 yen per year) and the minicars.

The bottom line, if the tax is enacted, would mean an overall tax increase of approximately 200,000 yen over the 10-year life of a vehicle, and greatly impacting on people in rural areas, small business owners and other individuals who can least afford it.

In rural areas with limited public transportation, moreover, it’s quite common to see households with two or even three minicars, which means they would be saddled with additional taxes of 50,000 yen or more per year. And needless to say, this would come at a time that the higher salaries envisaged by Abenomics are still just a pie in the sky.

This, the magazine claims, is yet another case of the strong bullying the weak.

Should the new tax system be rammed through, moreover, supermarkets, restaurants and other businesses that depend on the minicar owners for their patronage will also feel the pinch.

On Nov 15, Akio Toyoda, chairman of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association, voiced the organization’s opposition to the higher tax on minicars. METI Minister Toshimitsu Mogi responded that he “understood” that minicars were the “legs of regional areas” and that owners should be spared an “undue burden.”

But if the ruling coalition intends Mogi’s remark to be more than simple lip service, the magazine opines, a “smart decision” is called for to keep minicars affordable.

  • 2

    MarkX

    As a driver of a non-k car, I could never understand why they received such discounts from the gov't. Not only are the taxes lower, but the "shaken" or Japanese compulsory insurance check is much cheaper, as is the cost of using the expressway. I'm not sure if tripling the tax is fair, but asking them to pay more is not unreasonable. The interesting thing I've noticed is that the price of k-cars, has risen greatly and more people are opting for them rather than normal cars, all because of the savings on taxes and insurance. Many new k-cars cost as much as 2 million yen these days, making them much pricier than a small compact car.

  • -26

    Gobshite

    Apart from being deathtraps, they are a nuisance on the road. Too slow and not enough power to accelerate when needed. These stories make me laugh, "Without it, commuting to work would become troublesome", he is working yet an increase on what is a ridiculously low car tax is a problem?

    "There are no supermarkets, drugstores or other shops selling necessities within walking distance of my home," says Kentaro Hayami, a 32-year-old salaryman living in a regional city of 400,000.

    As he claims he uses his car for commuting to work, this argument is meaningless.

  • 5

    pochan

    I think it might be a better idea to lower the tax, insurance and particularly the shaken on regular cars. The shaken price is absolutely criminal and must put many young people off buying a car. I believe that Japan has a very low car ownership rate among young people and it surely does help that it costs so much to own a car after buying one.

  • 18

    Disillusioned

    One point missing from this article is that, K-cars are much more environmentally friendly. The use far less gas and produce a lot less CO2. Yeah, I do agree they are a little dangerous, especially for side impact, but as the article states, for many people they are their legs. To me, their low CO2 output and low gasoline usage should exempt them from taxes all together.

  • -5

    Frungy

    The author's assumption that all rural people drive k-cars is misinformed. In areas of Japan that get reasonable amounts of snow k-cars simply don't have the ground clearance or power to get around during winter. Many people in rural areas drive white plates for precisely this reason, that they don't want to be stuck on some unplowed rural backroad in the middle of a blizzard.

    In fact k-cars are FAR more popular in less rural areas and cities where roads are regularly plowed, parking is difficult (the big advantage of k-cars is that they're easy to park), etc.

    So, I'd say go ahead and tax those k-cars, you're mostly hitting city folk and people in more populous areas, most of whom don't need a car. And with that tax money reduce the tax on white plates, which is what people in REALLY rural areas in northern Japan drive, because a k-car would end up with them stranded in a snow-storm and dying.

  • 14

    StormR

    They should abolish the vehicle acquisition tax altogether on cars, leave K cars as they are and introduce a tax on the top end large engine capacity vehicles and luxury cars, go after the people who can afford to pay a little more and contribute the most to green house gases. This would make more sense than slamming the little guy in his little car.

  • 7

    GalapagosnoGairaishu

    Many moons ago a friend arranged for me to borrow a 360cc Daihatsu mini-truck with a two-stroke engine to move some stuff. The cab was so small I had to remove the seat to get in. But damn that little thing had an amazing capacity and turned out to be a huge help. As the saying goes. "Neko no te mo karitai" (I'd take all the help I can get).

  • 11

    BertieWooster

    In Okinawa, for some unknown reason, there is no train system. Public transport consists of an almost completely useless monorail (one small line) and an incomprehensible bus system.

    The only way to get around is to either walk or go by car or bike.

    Raising the tax would cripple this area. I don't know about other areas of Japan.

    Just another way that the government of Tokyo is totally out of touch with the rest of the country.

  • 3

    GalapagosnoGairaishu

    In Okinawa, for some unknown reason, there is no train system.

    Hardly unknown. To build a railway you've first got to procure the land, and Okinawa property ownership is something of a crazy quilt, particularly since so much of the area in the central part of the island is made up of US military bases. There are also financial considerations, such as whether the island's population would generate enough passenger demand to sustain a rail system -- which I doubt.

  • 11

    PeaceWarrior

    Please don't. Kei cars are really great as a second family car and if you do make the mistake of raising the tax, you'll see sales plummet. Kei cars have come a long way. I see them driven at speeds upwards of 130km/h on the highway quite often. They are amazing little engineering feats.

  • 16

    GW

    Folks here seem to have missed what this is all REALLY about!

    That is keeping taxes(more like pilfering tho!) coming in to feed the bureaucrats, over time smaller cars have become more popular meaning less taxes to feed the bureaucracies that are parasites on us all. So they simply are trying to maintain their selfish cash flow, nothing more but a lot less for US!!!

  • 3

    nandakandamanda

    Has no-one considered taking a middle way? Three times seems a little excessive and sudden, but 7,200 JPY a year was always stupidly cheap.

    Double it to 14,400 yen and it would still be a very attractive bargain.

    Perhaps this proposal was for Y24,500 so that after some expected protest they can 'compromise' and drop it to a middle figure?

  • 11

    Speed

    Talk about sticking it to the little guy.

    They're hurting those who are poorer, drive more economically efficient, and environmentally friendly vehicles.

    Shouldn't this be the other way around? A reward rather than a punishment?

  • -7

    browny1

    The original concept of the Kei Car has long passed. A cheap utilatarian vehicle for the poor(ish) and space disadvantaged was welcomed years ago.

    But now many Keis are larger than some compact cars, have luxuries and costs much higher than many compacts and their often quoted "miserly fuel consumption" is being met by compact cars and passed in many cases esp by hybrids. (Big Tax Breaks for hybrids anyone?)

    Also a cars running economy is only as good as it's regular maintenance. My mechanic has told me that many of the Ks he services only come in at shakken time and no way in hell are they getting the mileage they should. (miserly owners owning miserly cars?) He esp said simple oil/filter/spark plug changes and tire rotations/changes were not regular on many basic models. Why should my wife's meticulously maintained 8yr old Toyota Duet with it's 990cc motor, lighter than many Ks weight and shorter body length, superior safety and acceleration cost almost the same as my van in registration and taxes?

    It's time they started to pay their due owings.

  • -7

    Elbuda Mexicano

    K cars are smaller so simple physics! You crash with a bigger car? Truck?? You dead!! Sayonara!!

  • 12

    hokkaidoguy

    It's time they started to pay their due owings.

    My company recently bought 5 Daihatsu Miras - we got a deal on them, about 600,000 each. Along with that purchase we hired 5 new full time staff to use the cars for sales and tech calls.

    Any one of those 5 cars will generate more in tax revenue this year than your Duet will in its lifetime.

    Just something to think about when you start talking about "fair share"...

    A huge percentage of the keis on the road in Japan are company vehicles - and most of those are small businesses. Hint: if the kei is white or silver, it's usually a company car either now or at some point in its life.

    The ability of Japanese companies of all sizes to buy cheap, easy to maintain cars has been an incredible boost to the economy over the last 40 years. Tripling the taxes isn't going to fly, period.

  • 10

    John Occupythemoon Daly

    Good call, bro. Incentivize a product, let everyone buy it, and then, after they hold almost a 40% market share, triple the tax on them. That's a sure-fire way to build trust and appreciation of your citizenry. I drive a white plate car, and I've been thinking about getting rid of it because of the already criminal white plate shaken and road tax fees. It can cost me over ¥300,000 to drive my white plate over two years... that's terrible. Now, the only viable downgrade is hardly a discount. Better move next to the train station.

  • 0

    hokkaidoguy

    It can cost me over ¥300,000 to drive my white plate over two years... that's terrible.

    Wait, you're paying upwards of 20man for shaken??!?

    Time to switch mechanics - or start paying more attention to car maintenance.

    If you DIY (very very easy to do) the shaken should cost you between 2man and 5man for the weight tax (depending on your car), plus insurance (2.5man or so), plus 1500 yen or so for processing. That's it. Anything you're paying on top of that is going straight to your mechanic.

    If you keep on top of regular maintenance you won't have a problem. Do a google search, there are plenty of resources on self shaken in a few different languages.

  • 2

    ClippetyClop

    Might buy a couple of Hummers if this goes through :)

  • 7

    Hellokitty123

    The reason why they have decided to raise the taxes is simply because the American automobile industry has complained that the present system represents an unfair trade barrier. However, for people living in the rural areas, where public transport has been discontinued, they are literally a basic necessity. Unlike MarkX or Gobshite, who obviously live in cities, people who live in the country, where it is 20 km just to get to the nearest supermarket, cannot do without them. It is bad enough with the increases in the price of gasoline, but the higher taxes would make rural life untenable.

  • 1

    billyshears

    The bottom line, if the tax is enacted, would mean an overall tax increase of approximately 200,000 yen over the 10-year life of a vehicle, and greatly impacting on people in rural areas, small business owners and other individuals who can least afford it.

    That works out to an increase of 384 yen a week over 10 years. You wouldn't really think that amount would impact a small business owner, who could probably write it off as a business expense and get it most of it back as an income tax refund.

  • 0

    browny1

    hokkaidoguy - Well that's good for your company.

    I'm NOT arguing the dealer room price.

    And did your company ONLY put on 5 staff because of the K cars?

    And what on earth has the revenue generated by your car car got to do with my wife's duet???

    Do you mean that if your company bought 5 Duets 8 years ago it would be a loser or what? Just need a more concise comparative explanation.

    The whole poiint of my post was that Ks now are not the motorized wheelbarrows of yesteryear. As fully fit exponents of motorization they need to pay their % of road tax, city tax, registration tax etc. The example of my wife's car was obviously missed by you. Why should tax advantages be afforded to a vehicle that clearly no longer has a lot of the original stated advantages???

    And if tripling the taxes - means an extra 2 man/year over 10 years (¥400/week) and businesses can't afford it, well sorry I'd suggest the boss to give up 1 beer a week or a packet of cigarettes or 1 coffee or 1 bowl of ramen or something.

    I love K cars - I had a J-Pop for yonks and drove it into the ground, and what a cheap ride it was, but don't any one cry tears coz they might have to pay more to keep their same spot on the road as anyone else.

  • 5

    hokkaidoguy

    Sorry, been a long week. that post could have been more clear.

    And did your company ONLY put on 5 staff because of the K cars?

    In a nutshell, yes. Our tech and sales crew need cars. We got a deal on 5, so we bought the cars and then found people to go in them. Obviously we were looking to expand the business, but the amount of expansion depended on the availability of vehicles.

    And what on earth has the revenue generated by your car car got to do with my wife's duet???

    You were making the point that kei cars are taxed too cheaply by comparison, and that it's time they start paying their "due owings". My point is this: the sales tax revenue and income tax generated for Japan by the vehicles we're running far outpaces the small difference between kei and the duet weight class.

    Do you mean that if your company bought 5 Duets 8 years ago it would be a loser or what? Just need a more concise comparative explanation.

    Not sure what the Duet sold for 8 years ago, but the replacement for it is the Passo - base price on that looks a little over 100man for the utility model.

    We had 300man to invest. That gets us 5 keis or 3 Passos. Even before getting into insurance and fuel economy and tax and all that we're down two income generating employees. So, yeah. That's a loss.

  • 7

    BertieWooster

    Apart from being deathtraps, they are a nuisance on the road. Too slow and not enough power to accelerate when needed.

    "Gobshite," exactly!

    I'm sorry, but you are talking out of your rear end.

    K-cars have plenty of power. Don't blame the car, blame the driver.

    I recently changed from a 10 year old Toyota Duet to a Daihatsu Move and there is not a lot of difference between them as far as power is concerned. The Move is much better designed and the mileage is between double to three times the Toyota's.

  • -13

    JeffLee

    K-cars are an artificial concoction and a scam. The specs were dreamed up by bureaucrats, not engineers. First as a way for subsidizing impoverished farmers after WW2, but their real rationale has long since disappeared and so should they. Now they exist as a trade barrier, which is why they are stubbornly with us.

    Cars specs should be based on engineering, not politics.

  • 5

    Mike45

    I think the Keis were awesome. They were cheap for us gaijin looking for a first car or truck, in some areas parking was free and shaken was affordable. Parts were an easy fix, unless it was an altenator, then you must pay or find a diode pack somehow. Dangerous? yes! the trucks had like sheetmetal to protect you in the front, and they had no power. So what, in most places traffic is so bad you dont need a fast car. Kei vans are the best, but hard to find a used one.

  • 4

    Jan Claudius Weirauch

    Car taxes should be made up by prefecture, rural areas Okinawa and other similar areas should pay less than people who live in Tokyo or similar big city's with a good transportation system, that would be only fair as minimum salary is lower in rural areas and also it would be a small factor making it more attractive to live out of town.

    I pay 4000yen tax for my K-van/year

  • 6

    hokkaidoguy

    Now they exist as a trade barrier, which is why they are stubbornly with us.

    Ah, the trade barrier.

    The cheapest US car right now is the Chevy volt - the base model comes in at $12,100. That's the sticker price in Detroit. At today's rates that's 123man.

    The Honda N-One comes in at 115man. Again, showroom price.

    The Chevy gets 34 MPG. The N-One gets 27km/l. That's 63 MPG.

    ...and that Honda isn't even especially cheap - or especially good on gas.

    So explain to me: if the class system is dropped tomorrow and all cars are taxed equally, what American (or other) cars would people be buying to replace their keis?

    People looking at the bottom of the market are concerned with price and running cost. Dropping the tax schedule isn't going to change the fact that keis are cheaper to buy and cheaper to own than anything Detroit offers.

  • 0

    browny1

    Hokkaidoguy- Thanks for the reply.

    Interesting - but as i stated my concern is not what Ks sell for -, but simply that they have to pay for their spot on the road. And the way I see it, they are not paying their way. They are being subsidized by others. And I'm sure if Ks never existed farmers, businesses, companies, shops etc would still have developed.

    The only reason an overdue increase in their taxes hasn't eventuated is because wimpy govts(read ldp) haven't had the gumption to bite the hand that feeds them - the rural voters.

    Sure - sell Ks for 60man - hell sell'em for 40man - I don't care. BUT be fair and pay at least a respectable proportion of the tax that other similar road users pay. That's all.

  • 3

    hokkaidoguy

    BUT be fair and pay at least a respectable proportion of the tax that other similar road users pay. That's all.

    Fair enough. I drive a Crown, by the way - and I'm taxed higher than you as a result.

    Should I pay less or should you pay more?

  • -8

    inakaRob

    "One point missing from this article is that, K-cars are much more environmentally friendly. The use far less gas and produce a lot less CO2." Wrong!!!!! Total BS. But everyone love the way it sounds and wants to believe to so give half a dozen thumbs up. Sad you believe everyone someone who knows nothing posts just because you want to believe it

  • 9

    LFRAgain

    inakaRob,

    It's simple physics. K-cars are not only smaller and lighter, but also have smaller engines than burn less fuel than the vast majority of their white plate cousins. Yes, automakers are attempting to close that gap, but by-and-large, yellow plate Ks are more have better fuel economy, by far. As for emissions, depends on the car, but again, all things being equal, including the engineering behind engines, as well as government CO2 emission benchmarks, smaller engines will naturally produce lower CO2 emissions.

    Hybrids, BTW, don't enter into the equation, being so heavily subsidized by the government at to make any talk of disparities between taxes generated by them or kei cars ridiculous.

    Your "wrong! total BS" exhortation is, well, wrong and total B.S.

    Also, a common misconception being thrown around this thread is that kei kars are actually driven largely in urban areas, and not in rural areas, where the article indicates a lot of resistance to the proposed increase in taxes comes from. This too is incorrect.

    The highest ratio of kei- car ownership lies squarely in rural areas, just as stated in the article above. And where do you suppose the lowest ratio lies? Where the money is: Urban areas. Prefectures with the lowest ownership ratio of kei cars include Osaka, Chiba, Kanagawa, and at the number one position, of course, Tokyo.

    Kei kars still serve a purpose, being affordable and cheap to maintain for a significant enough portion of the population as to make raising the taxes as proposed akin to shooting Japan in the economic foot by pricing these cars well and truly out of the economic reach of some 30% of the public, not to mention small businesses that are currently barely staying above water in this brave new Abe-nomics world.

    The only real impetus behind the proposal to triple kei car taxes is a tax revenue one. It has far less to do with appeasing American automobile manufacturers and far more to do with helping the central government improve income flow in the face of soon-to-be crippling domestic debt.

  • -1

    ebisen

    I see the China strategy applied in Japan as well. Let everyone have their k car for free, once you flooded the market simply triple the tax and BANG! Free money! I wonder how long will this idiot be allowed to stay prime ministers...

  • 4

    GG2141

    One point worth noting is that ALL non-kei taxes go towards road construction. It is a HUGE chunk of cash and jealously guarded by bureaucrats. An attempt to tap into it for other purposes toppled a Govt. a few years back.

    On K-cars the taxes go to the local Govt. that collects them.

    Bureaucrats being sneaky, greedy, horrid creatures by nature, will most likely be doing something sneaky, horrid and greedy with the increased taxes.

  • 2

    Serrano

    Suzuki Motors is really pissed at this proposal.

    "Once regarded as a “gaman-kuruma” that owners tolerated because they couldn’t afford anything better"

    Sigh. I can't even afford to have a gaman-kuruma... what, pay 30,000 yen a month just for parking? I've told the salesmen at the local dealers that I can't buy a car from them because of the parking cost problem.

  • 0

    Mocheake

    Glad I beat them to the punch and bought a k-car last month. I actually dislike the small engine size but some are pretty stylish and very spacious inside.

  • 3

    zobo

    Speaking as a kei car owner who probably wouldn't have a car otherwise, I could see a modest tax increase - say perhaps double to ¥14k/yr - along with a tax on luxury cars and SUVs. I mean who the hell needs a Hummer most anywhere in Japan? But, let's remember what the priorities of those who propose such increases. That it would make car ownership harder on people like me or put struggling small businesses out of business is really not their concern as long as they get their pound of flesh.

    And, ditto to others who've criticized the barrier to trade argument. Aside from the fact that American cars generally suck compared to Japanese cars, if a suitable American model came out that had the size, price, reliability, and ready maintenance that a similar Japanese car had, I would certainly consider it. Until that happens, those who argue free trade in this case are betraying the hypocrisy of their position.

  • 4

    No Miso

    Why not go for a tax system like UK where the amount of CO2 produced is the metric used for taxation. It has accelerated development to more fuel efficient cars and those people who want to drive a 6 litre gas guzzler pay more than the 1.2 litre petrol sipper. This seems fair to me. However don't forget that this initiative may be to appease the US in TPP negotiations who claim they Japanese market is closed because of the favouritism on kei car taxes. They could make kei cars themselves, but as the unit cost is relatively low, not too much profit to be had.

  • 3

    presto345

    Truth is taxation rates are never fair, whatever the kind of tax. 24,500 yen for the K is 1,000 yen less than the rate for a 5-ton truck. Shouldn't we start talking about carbon footprints before imposing radical tax increases?

  • 0

    bookowls

    The shakken here is extortionate. When I tell my Japanese friends how much it costs in the UK compared to Japan, their jaws hit the floor. The car tax is, I think, quite reasonable. I drive a 350z and pay ¥58,000 a year in road tax, for having a 3.5 ltr engine. Some drivers in k-cars drive like they own the roads, so putting the price up somewhat, may help alleviate these idiots from being able to drive around easily. However, I don't agree with putting things so expensive that it stops being able to afford to get to work.

  • 3

    jpn_guy

    Environmentally friendly yes, but a total collision safety hazard. Remember that while light cars may get maximum collision safety ratings, manufacturers only test collision safety by crashing them against cars of the same size (and static barriers). Collision safety rating simply do not reflect the likely results of a collision with a larger, heavier vehicle. (Of course, from another perspective, maybe that is an argument for forcing everyone to drive kei's and banning larger cars)

  • 3

    Steve Fabricant

    Hokkaidoguy - Yor've mixed up the Chevy Volt, which GM are straining to get under $30K so they can finally sell a few, with the cheapo Chevy Spark. Yeah, volts, sparks, amps, confusing.

  • 0

    Ranger_Miffy2

    "200,000 yen over the 10-year life of a vehicle"...if that is all that is involved, it is only Y20,000/year. How is this a life or death proposition?

  • 1

    presto345

    The shakken here is extortionate. When I tell my Japanese friends how much it costs in the UK compared to Japan, their jaws hit the floor.

    Misunderstanding and spreading false rumors about calculating the cost of the JCI (Shaken) abound. There can only be a case of 'extortion' if the one doing the inspection is untrustworthy and charges the customer for unnecessary repairs. If you take the vehicle in for inspection at a designated test center yourself you pay less than 2,000 yen. If you have the car inspected and tuned beforehand by a dealer or indy they will charge you about 20,000 yen for that. They will also take the car to the test center for you. Note that the automobile tax and liability insurance charges are due at the same time. Those charges are paid in a different way and at a different time in the UK.

  • -2

    BertieWooster

    The whole point behind this "raise the taxes on K-cars" nonsense is your puppet brown-noser Abe kowtowing to the US in the TPP negotiations. US carmakers seem to think that if the taxes are equal, American cars will sell here.

    NOT!

    Abe doesn't seem to care how far he bends.

    Raising taxes on K-cars will cripple the economy.

  • 3

    hokkaidoguy

    Hokkaidoguy - Yor've mixed up the Chevy Volt, which GM are straining to get under $30K so they can finally sell a few, with the cheapo Chevy Spark. Yeah, volts, sparks, amps, confusing.

    I stand corrected.

  • 0

    smithinjapan

    Raising the taxes on K-cars would be stupid. They are dangerous on expressways, yes (for the people in them), but they are also not environmentally unfriendly gas-guzzling giants. I agree with any idea of taking away the right to park without any regulations (there are a-holes with K-cars and regular cars who park on the sidewalk outside my apartment all the time so I have to walk in the middle of the road!), but this would only stop people from buying K-cars, including those who really do consider them "Gaman-kuruma" because they can't afford otherwise.

  • 1

    USNinJapan2

    Although I personally can't stand kei cars, I do agree that they should be left alone tax wise. Nothing good can come economically from taxing kei owners more. I however would like to see highway speed limit for kei cars dropped back down to 80 like it or require them to stay in the slow/left lane where they belong. I'm sick of being stuck doing 100 kmh behind a kei that's just hanging out in the passing lane.

  • -7

    Yubaru

    Apart from being deathtraps, they are a nuisance on the road. Too slow and not enough power to accelerate when needed

    BS 1000 times over! I have a K-car that will beat just about every "regular" car off the line. You are talking out your butt!

    It's the driver NOT the car! I would put my "K" up against just about any production car on the line today in a quarter mile test of speed. I will also add that mine is a production model without any added enhancements.

  • -2

    Steve Fabricant

    "some drivers in kei cars drive like they own the roads"??? If someone is loafing along in the fast lane - that's what your high beams are for! It's more about the demographic, not the car. I nearly got mowed down by a hotshot in a kei while merging on the expressway yesterday, and conversely often get stuck behind dudes in big sedans. Kei cars are perfect for Okinawa, where there's only one expressway and the official limit is 90, and most of the streets are narrow. But let's have a good whine about them little furrin cars, eh?

  • 0

    No Miso

    It's the driver NOT the car! I would put my "K" up against just about any production car on the line today in a quarter mile test of speed. I will also add that mine is a production model without any added enhancements.

    Correct - lightweight, so doesn't need so much power - if only all cars were engineered so.

  • -3

    Yubaru

    where there's only one expressway and the official limit is 90,

    The "official" limit is 80 not 90.

  • 0

    USNinJapan2

    Yubaru, Steve,

    You evidently like your kei cars, but I think the reality is that most kei car owners drive them out of financial necessity and not from choice. I don't think it's a mere coincidence that the prefectures that have the highest percentage (>40%) of kei cars on the road are the economically poorer prefectures. Every single prefecture that has >50% of vehicle ownership comprised of kei cars is in the bottom 15 out of 47 prefectures in the economic rankings.

  • 1

    Steve Fabricant

    USN, OK, but that might also have a lot to do with the rural/urban divide that was the whole point of the article. And I do like my kei car - 1994 Honda Beat - a wild little skateboard with 65 horses under it.

  • -2

    Yubaru

    USN, look, when you live on an island with no trains, no decent public transportation, with a population of over 1 million people, and nearly 800,000 registered vehicles, it makes sense, both economically and ecologically to drive a kei.

    I know plenty of "rich" folks who own their Jaguar's, Lexus's, Crown's, Caddy's etc etc, who also drive their kei to work as well.

    Maybe they know something that you don't?

    BTW my turbo-charged Lupin is fun to drive too!

  • 0

    John Occupythemoon Daly

    Just for the record, I take excellent care of my automobile. The problem is it's an older, large-engine sports car, and that equals rather extreme road tax and shaken fees. Sure, I can replace light bulbs, change my own oil, etc, but there's only so much I can do. But, it is worth it, though. Skyline for life! :D

  • -1

    LFRAgain

    Yabaru,

    " . . . without any added enhancements"

    Your Lupin is turbo-charged. That's an enhancement, and not one offered on any standard kei car model out there. You have to want it and order it to get it. And you pay for it, too.

    Yes, I get your point about keis not being the puny weaklings that many perceive them to be - engineers are amazing in their capacity to eke out every last bit of horsepower and torque an engine has to offer, even one with a displacement of less than 600ccs -- But your exuberance for your Lupin doesn't dispel the fact that the vast majority of keis on the road today in Japan do not have turbo chargers, so are generally unable to beat most cars with standard-sized engines off any line. That's not the driver. It's the machine.

  • 2

    Steve Fabricant

    LFR - an "enhancement" really? Pretty much every kei car you see with a hood scoop has a turbo, so they can't be such an exotic option.

  • 1

    BertieWooster

    I wonder how many of those who complain of the snail like nature of K-cars have actually driven one?

    While my Daihatsu Move doesn't have the oomph of a 4.2 litre Jaguar, it's not slow, by any means. It certainly doesn't hold up the traffic. It's also surprisingly roomy inside and very comfortable. The mileage is excellent. It was cheap to buy and is cheap to run. The seat folds back so that I could sleep in it quite comfortably if I had to. And if they put the tax up so high, I may have to!

    What's not to like?

  • 0

    LFRAgain

    Steve,

    And exacly how many keis out of, say, 100 that pass you on the road is loaded up with a turbo charge upgrade? Not many. INo, turbo isn't exotic, but it's simply ridiculous to to pass it off as standard equipment that simply anyone driving a kei automatically indulges in in an effort to stand taller next to their white-plate driving friends.

    Besides, how well would a turbo-charged kei perform alongside a, let's say, turbo-charged white-plate? Not very well, I'd imagine.

    "My turbo-charged kei can beat your white plate" is simply a silly premise to begin with, harkening back to playground arguments over who's dad can beat up whom.

    It also bears mentioning that turbo also vastly curbs fuel efficiency, which sort of defeats one of the main reasons to buy a kei in the first place.

  • 0

    Todd Topolski

    Whenever politicians use the words "fair share" they have only one agenda, finding an excuse to take money they don't need. My guess is they did not expect so many K cars on the road and because they don't use as much fuel, the politicians are not getting the revenue from taxes on that fuel like they used too. Here in california, the politicians scam is to charge a tax per mile driven to make up for less taxes received from gasoline being purchased.

  • 1

    USNinJapan2

    Yubaru, Steve, Bertie,

    While my Daihatsu Move doesn't have the oomph of a 4.2 litre Jaguar, it's not slow, by any means. It certainly doesn't hold up the traffic.

    I have a K-car that will beat just about every "regular" car off the line...I would put my "K" up against just about any production car on the line today in a quarter mile test of speed.

    1994 Honda Beat - a wild little skateboard with 65 horses under it.

    Now I'm not at all trying to belittle kei cars because they indeed are perfect for certain circumstances, but comments like these above are exactly what I am talking about when I complain about kei car drivers holding me up when I get stuck behind them on the road. Sure a kei car can go as fast as white plated cars technicall and can be quick at a light for the first 30-40 kph, but they do so pretty much at the edge of their performance envelope. Example, Yubaru's Suzuki Lapin (as in French for rabbit, not Lupin BTW) redlines at just over 7000 RPM and is pretty much at redline when it's going 100 kph. So sure, it can go highway speeds but only barely by driving its engine at almost max RPM. So what you end up with is a driver who thinks he's driving fast in a car that certainly sounds and feels like it's going very very fast on the highway when it's just doing the 100 kph max speed limit. It's fine if he stays in the slow lane, but quite often you get a guy in a souped up turbo-charged kei who insists on cruising in the fast lanes where other non-kei cars normally cruise at 120 mph or higher. Add to that the factors that they can't maintain that speed as soon as there's an upslope and that they don't have the power necessary to accelerate at those speeds to merge and pass in sync with non-kei cars and it becomes really frustrating to other drivers. Now I'm in total agreement with you that kei cars are perfect for Okinawa where all three of you evidently reside, where there are little to no highways (limited to 80 kph max) and it's very flat driving overall with little grade and no long distances. But keis are simply not as great in the other 46 prefectures where the driving conditions and requirements are quite different and frankly, more demanding. Just trying to point out that your perspective on the roadworthiness of kei cars is derived from your experiences with them on Okinawa and shouldn't be applied to the rest of the country. And BTW Yubaru my 2.5 ton SUV would eat your Lapin for breakfast off the line and to the quarter mile... :-)

  • 3

    Laguna

    I'm on my third Honda Street (getting harder to find since laws required airbags and the Street was replaced by the Vamoos) and absolutely love the car. I joke that it is larger inside than outside; really, I can fit more stuff in it than most white-plate van owners. Its 210CM interior length with the rear seats folded down means I can sleep comfortably in back with my dog when I camp in the winter (plus residual heat from the engine keeps me warm til I go sleepy!) If someone offered to trade a Hummer for my Street, I'd cheerfully agree, sell the Hummer, buy another Street, and pocket the difference.

    USNinJapan2, I agree. I am quite aware of my car's limitations; I do not expect to make a long drive quickly, drive on the left, and generally try to chill. On the other hand, drivers trying to maneuver huge tank-like vehicles in town really annoy me, particularly when they try to take shortcuts down narrow streets. Perhaps some streets should be limited to kei cars.

    I'll stick with my Street no matter what happens to the taxes.

  • 3

    siniestro

    I don't understand the people that say its not fair for the white plate car owners and that the k cars should pay more. Is there someone preventing you for buying a k car too? If you feel unfair get a k car to have the same benefits. But no you want the extra ompf in power, size, luxury isn't it? Well guess what the k car owner likes it too but he/she decided to compomise for the tax saves. So its the insane taxes on white plate cars you should demand to be lower in order to be fair. Untill then stop winning enjoy your car and pay your taxes otherwise get a k car too.

  • 0

    Aizo Yurei

    Man I hope they don't, I love my little Lapin to death. It's just a little grocery getter, no need for power or the latest features. What a good car it's been. My wife's father has a Hi-Ace that we borrow when we go on road trips. My wife hates driving it but I want one of those new boxy ones. I'd hate to get rid of the little Lapin just because of some stupid new tax. I get so much use out of it and I put 2,000 yen in it about one a month.

  • -1

    LFRAgain

    SIniestro,

    Excellent point. For those of you out there who think it's so painfully unfair for kei car drivers to pay lower taxes for their vehicles, what precisely is stopping you from going out and buying your very own kei car?

    Please, take your time with the answer. :-)

  • 0

    sf2k

    This makes no sense. You want to lower the emissions of vehicles and K's do that very well. Taxes should be based on emissions and size in general and that would keep their status while also taxing the appropriate markets towards being leaner and greener. That way if you want to drive big you pay for it, otherwise rewarded for driving smaller vehicles. If there's no advantage then what's the point? It's just punitive.

  • 0

    Nessie

    Environmentally friendly yes, but a total collision safety hazard.

    GF is an insurance claims adjuster, and her requirements for her last car purchase were: "the cheapest non-kei I can find." Deathtraps. Her Fit is fine for city driving, and it handles the expressway okay. I never saw the need for a car with jack-rabbit acceleration and oodles of power, but if that's your thing, go for it. And pay extra taxes for it.

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