The Japanese kei cars are the smallest highway-legal passenger cars in production and have been around ever since the end of the 1940s, soon after the Second World War. Since their introduction, and given the country’s congestion problems, kei cars have become extremely popular, accounting for a total of 30 percent of the market at its peak, in fiscal year 2016.
Not the same can be said for markets outside of Japan, where this concept of a vehicle is yet to conquer hearts and minds.
With the four models launched this week in Japan, Nissan and Mitsubishi plan to become even more relevant in this segment of the market. These new products come six years after their first generation was introduced and will provide increased performance, are built on upgraded platforms and use new engines and transmissions.
Boasting a brand new design, all four kei cars will for the first time be capable of semiautonomous driving, thanks to technologies that allow them to tend to themselves when driving on single-lane roads or on highways.
Despite being built at the same facility, the two companies say the related models share some key components but will retain separate brand features.
Nissan and Mitsubishi say the models will go on sale in Japan later this month, but they did not yet announce pricing.