HONOLULU (KHON2) — They are tiny trucks with the steering wheel on the right side of the vehicle instead of the left.
Kei-class vehicles are growing in popularity in the Islands.
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Kei-class vehicles are Japanese-made mini automobiles and they can only be imported to Hawaii if they are a quarter century or older.
“So they are legal in the United States, but if it’s less than 25 years, you’re not allowed to import them,” said Department of Transportation spokesman Jai Cunningham. “That’s a national regulation, if you will. So that, that really isn’t something that we govern over.”
Not all kei-class owners bought them to deal with the pain at the pump, though the vehicles do have smaller engines. Manoa resident Darin Kohara said it is more of a novelty for him.
“They look just like my VW van I used to have except, you know, a lot smaller. Kind of fun-sized,” Kohara said. “I really didn’t expect the attention that it gets, you know? Otherwise it just feels like a regular car you’re driving around.”
Kohara said it was not hard to get used to the right-hand steering, but smaller functions can still be a little tricky.
“Literally, picked up from port and within like 10 minutes, it felt like natural,” Kohara said. “To this day, still I’ll occasionally change lanes with my wipers or I’ll turn on my wipers but actually my blinkers come on and that’s still backwards.”
It is not just on Oahu that these vehicles can be found — Molokai resident Edwin Mendija said he has been seeing more and more kei-class trucks in Kaunakakai.
Mendija bought one for himself for around $6,500 and said gas was definitely a factor in his purchase.
“A lot of kei trucks, especially here, we have a lot of farms and whatnot, people doing farming, people hauling stuff, so it’s been really good for a lot of people here,” Mendija said.
Officials have not seen any evidence to show these vehicles have a higher danger of wrecking, but the Transportation Department still had a safety message for those considering kei-class.
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“If you’re buying one of those vehicles, just know that those mini vehicles, if they were built prior to 1998, they have not been tested as far as safety standards, so buyer beware if you’re doing that,” Cunningham said.