Kei mini truck is the name applied to small trucks, and I mean small, which are made mostly in Japan, and are designed to take advantage of laws that tax small vehicles less. They are fully-functional trucks, just small.

     A couple of years ago, Jake Morgan, a farmer who lives in North Carolina, realized he needed a new vehicle for the work around his farm. He looked at semi-off-road vehicles and regular pickup trucks that are available in the US. He found that a John Deere off-road mini-truck would cost him in the range of $30,000 and a “normal size” American pickup truck from Ford or Dodge would be anything up to $90,000 and above – a new Ford F250 at the time was $85,000 and enormous. I should add here that prices skyrocketed after the pandemic, but are now coming down, slowly. Someone suggested to Jake that he take a look at a Kei mini truck instead.

     Jake did some investigation and discovered that he could buy a 1997 Honda Acty, a tiny, four-wheel-drive, imported truck for just $2,000. Not only was this “dirt-cheap” but it was less than five-feet wide, and would fit through the door of his barn, which none of the other trucks he looked at would. Even better, he discovered his new mini-truck could be driven legally on the roads, which some of the other off-road-type trucks couldn’t. He has subsequently upgraded to another mini-truck which has air-conditioning and a button that operates a “dumper”, like in the picture above.

     The Kei mini truck was never intended to be exported, much less sold in the US. Most are right-hand-drive, and do not meet current regulations for air-bags and modern safety equipment. However, they can be imported under laws that were originally designed for vintage cars, as long as they are at least twenty-five years old. They fill a huge niche that American vehicle manufacturers are failing to address. – this is probably more a cultural problem as well as a financial one in that huge pickups are part of redneck “culture” and are the most profitable products of US truck manufacturers.

     As an observation, many of the pickup trucks I see driving around in Colorado have nothing in the back, and look as though they never have had. A large work-truck is definitely essential for certain jobs and industries but a smaller one would work just as well for most businesses. Also the cost of fuel (miles per gallon) for a seven-liter truck, against a 0.66 liter truck, is enormous. I just googled these trucks and there are long list of these trucks that can be imported from Japan at a total cost each of around $2,700, delivered to the US.

     The owners of HVNY Imports in New York report that they have sold over 300 Kei mini trucks in the past few years. They say that, unlike new trucks, they are easy and cheap to modify and repair. In Wisconsin and Minnesota, people fit them with tracks to drive on ice in the winter. In Connecticut, a motor mechanic with a You-tube site reported that his channel’s popularity soared when he started featuring his Kei mini truck.

     Unfortunately, the problem will come when the US Truck Industry realizes that these mini-trucks are cutting into their business. Instead of recognizing the trend, and building their own versions, probably at triple the cost, or more, they will do what they have always done when competition rears its ugly head – try and get the mini-trucks banned in the US. Their lobbying power is great. They would also bring in their lobbying comrades, the oil and gas industry – the bigger the trucks, the more gas and diesel they use.

     The result will inevitably be the government folding to the pressure and banning the import of these tiny trucks, and to hell with the environment, and common sense.

     In the meantime, the Kei mini truck is a growing cult, as well as an effective tool for small farmers and other small businesses, and long may they be so.

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1 thought on “KEI MINI TRUCK”

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    So, Ian, have you bought one? I would have thought ideal for your Christmas lighting business.

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