Japanese ‘Kei’ trucks gaining popularity in rural America

  • Many Kei trucks were made in the 1990s, outliving the 25-year import law
  • Used mini trucks are very affordable, costing on average about $4,500
  • Compact trucks are useful on farms and in rural America

ELGIN, Ill. (NewsNation) — Japanese mini trucks, or Kei trucks, are seeing significant success on farms and back roads across America.

These foreign truck models, with their steering wheels on the passenger’s side and no airbags, have become increasingly popular in rural America.

But why are Americans buying these trucks now, and at an increasing rate?

In the U.S., there is a 25-year import law, which prohibits vehicles less than 25 years old from being imported or purchased in the country if they don’t comply with all applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). After 25 years, any vehicle that does not comply with FMVSS can be lawfully imported, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Many of these Japanese “Kei” pick-ups were built in the 1990s, which finally allowed Americans to import them for personal use without issue.

These compact pickups are extremely useful on farms and in rural areas. They can be driven on highways, they are lightweight, very affordable and usually have heat and air conditioning.

On average, used mini trucks cost about $4,500. Repainting them and adding all the bells and whistles would cost an estimated $8,500, according to AJ Schatsick, the sales manager at Butera Motors in Elgin.

However, the latest models of these trucks can cost upward of $17,000, depending on factors like vehicle options, shipping costs and specific models, according to a report by J.D. Power.

Schatsick said he has also received a lot of first-time car buyers coming in to buy these mini trucks, who end up fixing them themselves.


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