Why Don’t Any Car Manufacturers Make Mini Trucks Anymore?

Last Updated on 10月 31, 2022 by Carusedjp

If you love trucks, you aren’t alone. In the US, nearly 80% of new car sales are for trucks and SUVs. This is down from only 53% of new car sales in 2010 and 62% in 2015.

Yet, there is one type of truck that you do not see much these days: the small or compact truck. Car manufacturers rarely produce small trucks today despite growing demand.

At the same time, the Japanese mini truck is gaining popularity in the US and beyond. These compact trucks are affordable and perfect for individuals and even small businesses.

Why are small trucks so hard to find in the US these days? And why might a used Japanese mini truck be the vehicle you have been searching for? We are answering these questions next, so keep reading.

Defining the Small Pickup Truck

Small trucks are usually a type of pickup truck. They come with lower price tags than traditional mid-size and large trucks. Yet, small trucks can still tow an average of 5,000 pounds or up to 7,000 pounds.

Compared to, say, a Ford F-150, small trucks have shorter truck beds and less width. Small trucks are also much lower to the ground than regular pickup trucks.

The small pickup truck is a popular option for people who want a truck but can not afford a standard-sized one. These vehicles are also easier to navigate, making them a better choice for urban living.

The Japanese Mini Truck: Explained


If you are looking for a classic truck that is even more affordable and compact than small pickup trucks, the Japanese mini truck may be for you. Also known as Kei trucks, you have to import mini trucks from Japan.

Mini trucks are two-door vehicles. They are extremely lightweight, which you may know already if you speak Japanese. “Kei” means “light.”

Kei trucks measure around nine feet long, a little more than three feet wide, and are nearly seven feet tall. Compare this to the popular Ford F1-50, which has the same height but measures up to 20 feet long and seven feet wide.

Though these vehicles have low horsepower and slow speeds, they are the prime choice for businesses and individuals who want an affordable truck. You can buy one new for as little as $13,000.

Why Small Trucks Have Fallen Out of Style in the US

US automobile manufacturers have all but ceased production of lightweight trucks. Now, the only way to buy a compact pickup is to order it from overseas.

But why is this the case? We will outline the top reasons for the decline in the production of small trucks next.

Small Truck Failures

Small trucks have not always been out of style. US models like the Chevvy S-10 and the GMC Sonoma are all compact trucks made exclusively for American drivers.

Yet, manufacturers ultimately canceled all their small truck models. Why? Americans just were not buying them.

In fact, many car manufacturers have claimed that government buyers were their only small truck customers. But this isn’t the only reason US car makers do not put out small trucks anymore.

The Chicken Tax

In 1964, compact trucks started to grow in popularity throughout the US. But then, Europe and the US got into an argument over chicken tariffs. In retaliation, the Lyndon Johnson administration levied its own tax.

This new tax placed a 25% tariff on all imports of European-made brandy, dextrin, potato starch, and, you guessed it, lightweight trucks. This tariff became known as the chicken tax.

The chicken tax is still in place today, making it extremely expensive to import trucks made outside of the US. Unfortunately, many car manufacturing plants are in Asia and Europe. It is cost-prohibitive to sell these models in the US.

American-Made Small Trucks Are Expensive

It costs more to manufacture cars in the US than it does to make them elsewhere. This is not due to the higher cost of raw materials. Instead, it is the fair labor laws in the US that drive up the cost of American-made cars.

What is more, some US-based auto factories are not equipped to engineer all the components in a vehicle. For instance, Asia is a top producer of semiconductors. If an American company wants semiconductors, it must import them.

Small Trucks Equal Low Profits

To make US-made trucks more affordable, auto manufacturers would have to strip down the vehicle to its barest form. This is the only way to make a profit on these high-cost but low-price trucks.

Car companies are in the business of making money. And they can make much, much higher profits off of mid-sized and large trucks. In this way, customer demand is not in line with manufacturer incentives.

Low US Demand

Small trucks are super popular outside of the US. And if US customers were buying lightweight trucks in droves, perhaps it would make sense for car companies to produce these models on-shore.

But that is just not the case. This is mostly due to the problems we have mentioned. US-made small truck models are just too expensive to justify the cost, especially when they include so few features.

Japanese Mini Trucks Are the Best Compact Trucks

Why Japanese Mini Trucks Are Popular in USA
Are you searching for compact trucks to add to your company fleet? Where you need transportation for yourself, your business, or both, here are the top reasons why you should consider a mini truck made in Japan.

Pay a Lower Price

Kei truck-makers create these vehicles as streamlined and functional as possible. They do not include extra bells and whistles. The main goal of a mini truck is to get you and your haul from point A to point B.

The pared-down features of a Japan mini truck explain why you can get one for such an incredible price. New Kei trucks will run you no more than $20,000 and usually closer to $10,000.

Avoid the Chicken Tax

You do not have to buy a new Kei truck. Mini trucks have been popular in the US for decades now. So, many models are available second-hand for less than $1,000!

The other plus side of getting a used mini truck is that you do not have to pay the chicken tax. Instead, you can buy your new compact vehicle on US soil from a used Kei truck dealer.

Get Better Gas Mileage

Kei trucks have smaller engines than heavier-weight trucks. As we mentioned earlier, these vehicles are also very lightweight and compact. These features make for a truck with impressive miles to the gallon.

While the compact size of a mini truck is great for urban areas, it also makes this car an affordable option for rural and long-distance drivers. For businesses, that can add up to countless dollars in annual savings on transportation.

See Lower Maintenance Costs

Mini trucks are about as simple as vehicles get. And the world’s major auto manufacturers design and produce mini trucks. What do these two facts have in common?

Both features make for a vehicle with impressively low maintenance costs. It is easier and thus cheaper to diagnose problems with simpler auto designs. And parts for repair are more widely available than other foreign-made cars.

Go Off-Roading With Ease

You may be surprised to learn that, though they are simple in design, Japanese mini trucks are pretty durable. Construction companies often deploy fleets of mini trucks because they can handle uneven and bumpy terrain with ease.

If you are willing to pay a bit more, you can even get a mini truck with 4-wheel drive. Again, you may pay more than a basic mini truck, but the price still will not come close to the cost of a US-made pickup truck with 4WD.

Mini Trucks Are Recognizable

Even though mini trucks are somewhat popular in parts of the US, they definitely stand out more often than not. They have a unique shape and size that you just can not find with most American-made cars.

The recognizable look of the mini truck can act as free marketing for your business. Just slap your logo on the side of your fleet and watch heads turn as your mini trucks drive around town!

Where to Search for Kei Trucks Online

carused.jp team
Small trucks are not so common in the US because most US car manufacturers do not produce them. That’s because lightweight trucks are expensive to import and produce. Yet, the Japanese mini truck or Kei truck is different.

Are you searching for Kei trucks to buy in the US? Browse our used Kei trucks for sale to find the affordable and compact transportation solution your business needs!

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