Kei Trucks and Kei Cars


The meaning of the Kei Trucks and Kei Cars is somewhat debated. Part of the JDM craze (Japanese Domestic Market), kei in Japan can be illustrated or written in various characters and carry different meanings. When Kei, as in someone’s name, is translated into English means blessed, respect, or joyous. When Kei 系 is translated into English it means style. Kei can be written using different kanji characters and can mean:

圭, “square jewel”

恵, “blessing”

慧, “wise”

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慶, “jubilation”

敬, “respect”

佳, “excellent”

桂, “Japanese Judas-tree”

啓, “disclose”

硅, “silicon”

In the case of the tiny (yet super cool in a nerdy kind of way) vehicles in this article, the phrase ‘Kei Car’ refers to a ‘light automobile’. It is essentially the smallest highway-legal passenger car available in Japan.

Kei Trucks Size

kei truck size comparison
Kei Truck Size Comparison

‘keijidōsha’ is a light automobile (kei car) that is the smallest highway-legal passenger car available in Japan, while ‘keitora‘ are Japanese “light vehicle” statutory class trucks. As you see in the size comparison photo above, these Kei Trucks are very small with short wheel base (SWB). Kei trucks are often imported into North America as sort of novelty or collectable trucks. These first showed up as 3-wheelers, and even the 4 wheeled ones now have maximum physical size and engine displacement specifications. The largest a kei truck can be is 134″ long, 58″ wide, and 79″ tall, with up to 660cc engines. An Indonesian version of the originally 543-cc Suzuki Carry was built with a 1600cc motor. They should have called them “pocket trucks” haha.

Some Suzuki Jimny units match the KEI restrictions. The Suzuki SJ30 began production in May 1981. In Japan, it was sold as the Suzuki Jimny and was a kei car, produced with both 550 cc and 660 cc 3-cylinder engines.

If you have a KEI truck like any the models in this article, or any that have not been mentioned, please join the KEI Truck Group.

Kei Trucks Customizations

There have been many kei truck customizations over the years, and I’d love to get my paws on one. My favorite, because of its rugged 4×4 look, is this Honda ACTY concept truck by Daedalite. Let me know your opinion in Comments, below.

As Tough As Kei Trucks Can Get!

Hello Special is a small shop located in the Kyoto, Japan area that specializes in custom kei trucks.

Kei Truck Customizations in Japan
Kei Truck Customizations by Hello Special

Just look at some of these custom kei trucks that the JDM Imports CT website wrote about.

Got cash and want a stand out truck? Customize a kei truck!

Electric Kei Trucks

It seems like Cenntro Automotive Corporation of China has emulated the look of the most common kei trucks from Japan, looking like the cab of a small van with the van body cut off into a flat bed pickup truck bed. Cenntro, however, is electric and the base of its truck bed is full of batteries. You can load any shape of cargo compartment that you want onto their backs.

Cenntro Electric Kei Trucks Platform
Cenntro Electric Truck Company is probably destined for greatness. You can invest in their stock symbol CENN.
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