Compact Car - Japanese Market

Japanese Market

This article incorporates information from the equivalent article on the Japanese Wikipedia.

In 1955, the Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry set forth a goal to all Japanese makers at that time to create what was called a "national car". The concept stipulated that the vehicle be able to maintain a maximum speed over 100 km/h (62 mph), weigh below 400 kg (882 lbs), fuel consumption at 30 km/L (85 mpg; 71 mpg) or more, at an average speed of 60 km/h (37 mph) on a level road, and not require maintenance or significant service for at least 100,000 km (62,000 mi). This established a "compact car" target that was larger than what has become known as the "light car" or the kei car. Under Japanese regulations, this class is defined as vehicles at or less than 4.7 m (15.4 ft) long, 1.7 m (5.6 ft) wide, 2 m (6.6 ft) high and with engines at or under 2,000 cc (120 cu in). Interior dimensions and available cargo space are not taken into consideration. All vehicles in Japan, regardless of origination of manufacture, are held to this standard.

This larger class is by far the most popular in Japan due to tax benefits stipulated by Japanese government regulations (Japanese Government's Road Vehicle Act of 1951). One of the first compact cars that met those requirements was the Toyota Publica with a flat-4 engine, and the Mitsubishi 500. The Publica and the Mitsubishi 500 were essentially "kei cars" with engines larger than regulations permitted at the time. These vehicles were followed by the Hino Contessa in 1961, the Isuzu Bellett, Daihatsu Compagno and Mazda Familia in 1963, the Mitsubishi Colt in 1965, and the Nissan Sunny, Subaru 1000, and Toyota Corolla in 1966. Honda introduced their first four-door sedan in 1969, called the Honda 1300. In North America, these cars were classified as subcompact cars.

By 1970, Nissan released their first front wheel drive car that was originally developed by Prince Motor Company which had merged with Nissan in 1966. This was introduced in 1970 as the Nissan Cherry. In 1972, the Honda Civic appeared with the CVCC engine that was able to meet California emission standards without the use of a Catalytic converter. In 1973, the Energy Crisis started, which made small fuel efficient cars more desirable, and the North American driver began exchanging their large cars for the smaller, imported compacts that cost less to fill up and were inexpensive to maintain. The Toyota Camry, the Datsun 510, the Mitsubishi Galant (a captive import from Chrysler sold as the Dodge Colt), the Subaru DL, and later the Honda Accord gave buyers increased passenger space and some luxury amenities, such as air conditioning, power steering, AM-FM radios, and even power windows and central locking without increasing the price of the vehicle. Compact trucks were also introduced to the USA, with the Toyota Hilux and the Datsun Truck, followed by the Mazda Truck also sold as the Ford Courier, with Isuzu selling their compact truck as the Chevrolet LUV. In 1979, Mitsubishi sold their compact truck Mitsubishi Forte as the Dodge Ram 50 and Plymouth Arrow.

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