The Kei Car is Japan’s SUV - Autozam AZ-1, Honda Beat, Suzuki Cappuccino — Revelations Ep.26 - Hagerty Media

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America is to the SUV, as Japan is to the kei car. Ever since the early 1950s, Japan’s government has been promoting an epidemic of microcars, or keijidōsha, to aid the post-WWII economy and offer accessible, inexpensive transportation to its citizens. The trend finally gained some traction in the 1960s, with motorcycle manufacturers Honda, Suzuki, and Mazda joining in the mix. Today? You can’t visit the island nation without bumping into dozens of packed streets, overflowing with these bite-sized, efficient little half-cars.

How did the 1991 Honda Beat, the 1991 Suzuki Cappuccino, and the oh-so-beautiful 1992 Autozam AZ-1, with its supercar styling, and iconic micro gull-wing doors factor into the minicar ‘horsepower war,’ mirroring the horsepower war across all Japanese auto manufacturers at the time? Why was 64 horsepower the minicar limit in the ’90s, and how did the boom economy factor into the rise and fall of sales? All this and more, as we tell the untold history and legend of the kei car.

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