By on September 28, 2010

Minicars, that Japanese specialty with a pint-sized (0.66 liter) enginelet, still commands a market share of more than 30 percent in Japan. It used to be more. Toyota didn’t play in that segment, that’s what Daihatsu was for. Today, The Nikkei [sub] reports that Toyota will enter the minicar market. Wait a minute, wasn’t that what Daihatsu was for? Oh, they still are …

In a communiqué, Toyota announced that “Daihatsu is to supply minivehicles to TMC on an original-equipment-manufacturer’s basis for sale in Japan.” In other words, Toyota will rebadge Daihatsus and sell them through the Toyota dealer network. Which will make Daihtasu dealers just giddy with joy.

But don’t worry,  “even with this development, TMC will continue to mainly focus on full-size vehicles and Daihatsu on minivehicles.”

Phew. Glad they mentioned that.

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28 Comments on “Toyota: Let’s Get Small...”

  • avatar

    So I’m totally ignorant about the mini-car market.  I think that the car in the pict actually looks kinda of cool.
    On a more practical note, what is the advantage of something like this over a motorcycle with a rear & side bags?

  • avatar

    So Toyota, within the specific segment, becomes the Mercury of Daihatsu minicars.

  • avatar

    Whatever that thing in the picture may be, it’s not a Kei class Japanese car. 

    On a more practical note, what is the advantage of something like this over a motorcycle with a rear & side bags?

    “When the rain comes, I run and I hide my head…..”

    Seriously – Kei class (660 cc max – 63 HP max) cars fit their market very well.  Japan is not a large county – it’s small and crowded. Most streets are limited to 40 KPH (about 25 MPH) and are very narrow and congested. You don’t need a lot of vehicle for those conditions. But anyone who has ever lived with only a motorcycle or scooter for transportation will rave about the advantages of a roof and a trunk, and a place where your girlfriend can sit in a skirt without getting her legs wet in the rain.

    They’re not realistic here in the states but in their element, they’re  a great idea.

    • 0 avatar
      M 1

      For not being realistic here in the states, you can legally tag and drive them in about 15 states. (The EPA has screwed it all up recently, of course, and now they’re more heavily restricted than an off-the-shelf ATV… but there are many, many of them in daily street use in the US.)

  • avatar

    Is the guy in the pic average sized? He certainly looks huge compared to the car. That must be difficult for him to stuff himself in the little bugger.

  • avatar

    Please Daihatsu , come back to the states !
    I own two Charades. Even though they regularly show up on those “worst cars” lists that come up, they are dependable as all get out and because they are designed for countries with $9 gasoline , they are almost as economical as owning a motorcycle. You won’t win any drag races in them ,but for a first car or as an insurance policy against a shooting war in the middle east , they can’t be beat.
    I wish that Toyo would sell them in their showrooms stateside. Sigh.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    For the densely populated areas of the East Coast, a decent Kei-class  makes more sense than a street-legal golf cart with an 800 pound battery pack. Still the Kei-class cars and trucklets are small, and that scares Americans. Plus, our plus-sized Americans won’t fit. Let’s see how the Fiat 500 sells. That’s as close to a Kei-class as we’ll get. Granted it will be marketed as a fashion accessory, so it’s a slightly different pitch, but a very similar product. BTW, while watching TopGear last night, I noticed the advert for a $199 lease for a MINI. Could it be the “cool” factor has worn off and now they have to “sell” them on price, just like a Yaris?

  • avatar

    Actually , you can sorta kinda buy and drive a kei class vehicle in the U.S…
    Go to Craiglook. Type in Daihatsu and lots of Hijet trucks will pop up for sale . They are about as close as we get to the whole Japanese microcar scene stateside. They are not street legal in too many places here,so they are mostly used off road on farms ranches and for hunting. They run forever and are pretty easy to work on and get parts for.(These are farm trucks in Japan and they are tough).
    The U.S. could save a lot of gasoline by making these vehicles street legal on roads with posted speed limits below 45.

  • avatar
    Chicago Dude

    I had a previous-generation Daihatsu Terrios 4×4 as a rental in Costa Rica.  It was fun, small, light, fuel efficient, fun, durable, crude, and did I mention fun?
    It’s too small for US highways, but would be perfectly fine on city streets and off-road.  I wish they sold them in the US.

    Actually, looking at the current generation Terrios on the Diahatsu website makes me think that it could definitely be successful in the US as long as it could be sold for less than $15,000.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    “less-than-pint-sized engine”
    A US pint (16 oz.) is 473 ml and a British pint (20 smaller oz.) is 568 ml. The original Kei cars were limited to 360 ml, which indeed was less than either pint, but for the last 20 years the limit has been 660 ml, which is more than either pint.

  • avatar

    The government shipyard where I worked had a fleet of Daihatsu Hi-Jet pickups for on-base use. Slick for maneuvering on crowded piers, economical, able to take abuse from all kinds of drivers driving someone else’s vehicle. They had defrosters, automatic chokes, and a place for a radio. The gov’t locked out high gear in the trannies to keep people from speeding in the shipyard. I’ll never know whey they didn’t buy more when the little ‘hatsus eventually wore out.

  • avatar

    Luckily for us Canuck’s we can import older kei cars and legally drive them around. I think the coolest looking of the lot has got to be the Suzuki Alto Works RS/X with all of 65bhp and 650kg in weight. Problem is they command a bit of a premium…

  • avatar

    that thing looks like a miniature Chevette

  • avatar
    jose carlos

    The car pictured here was a hilarious attempt at automobile craftsmanship in Portugal, a product of the ’74 revolution (whatever). Like the “products” of the era, it is best forgotten. Powered by a 550 cc gas engine (Daihatsu sourced) it was notorious for the high fuel consumption (any proper small car would be as good) and cramped interior. The dynamics were that of a vehicle with two live axles coupled with leaf springs. Safety, unheard. At any rate this site may be of interest:
    Anyway, it has historic value.

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