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The Saloon Car in the early years was referred to as a Sedan (セダン). American English has had a big influence on the Japanese language, and still does today. The Japanese language has different levels of politeness as does the word for car. The correct Japanese for motor-car in order of politeness is “jidōsha” (自動車) lit: self-propelled vehicle, less polite is “kuruma” (車) lit: vehicle or cart and least polite is “kaa” (カー) japlish as in “sports-car” (スポーツ·カー). Strangely, a Volkswagon Beatle is considered a sports car in Japan.
The Kei car or K-car “kei jidōsha” (軽自動車) lit: light car has preferential rates of tax and insurance and in rural areas they are exempt from the requirement to provide proof of a parking place. In towns and cities, some roads are marked for kei cars only, as well as certain car parks. After World War II, the kei car was born as the public car in a government directive similar to that of the Volkswagon, in order to provide a cheap mass produced peoples car. The engineers of the Nakajima Aircraft Company (中島飛行機株式会社) developed the first truly successful kei car, the Suzuki Suzulight of 1955. The Subaru 360 was next to follow suit in 1958.
1955 Suzulight: 1958 Subaru 360:
1960 Mazda 360:
An estate-car, takes the American use of station wagon “suteeshon-wagon” (ステーション·ワゴン) or more commonly just “wagon” (ワゴン) which is confusing to the English as a wagon is a truck in England. A Hatchback is a “hacchibakku” (ハッチ·バック), a Truck is a “torakku” (トラック), a Pickup is a “kogata torakku” (小型トラック), a Light Truck is a “kei-tora” (軽トラ), a Light Van is a “raito ban” (ライト バン). Confusingly, the Suzuki Jimny (4×4) is classed as a commercial vehicle.
1986 Daihatsu Leeza 550cc:
Cars got bigger in the 1980’s when regulations were changed and 550cc engines were now the norm. The 1986 Daihatsu Leeza (above) is a bit of an anomaly in as much as it had coupé lines, was replaced by a saloon, and was technically a commercial vehicle. At that time, if a vehicle had strapping points and temporary rear seats, it could be classed as a kei-class commercial. When the regulations changed again to 660cc, the Leeza morphed again into a convertible and then a pseudo sports !!
The 660cc Leeza Spyder: