Kei trucks prove that less can be more when it comes to driving in Utah. | News | Salt Lake City Weekly

Kei trucks prove that less can be more when it comes to driving in Utah. 

Small Lake City

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Cruising around Salt Lake City, you are guaranteed to spot a wide variety of vehicles. From Ferraris to Fiats and from Lamborghinis to the occasional Lada, we've got them all and everything in between.

Subarus, of course, reign supreme. But some will be surprised to hear that the top-selling vehicle in Utah—alongside 12 other states—are the Ford F-series pick-up trucks. It appears the "Utah Way" of doing things differently does not extend to automobiles.


But what's caught my eye lately while driving is another type of pick-up: kei trucks. In a sea of cars, these Japanese miniatures—with exotic model names such as the Subaru Sambar, the Mitsubishi Minicab and the Mazda Scrum—still find a way to stand-out. They are the counterbalance to Tesla's behemoth Cybertruck: both have quirky aethestics and, ironically, the same bed size, so you can haul equal amounts of mulch from Home Depot, if need be.

Now it could be the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon in action—once you see one, you can't help but start noticing them more—but based purely off my own personal observations, I've seen a noticeable uptick in their popularity here in the city (photo above).

I'd be willing to guess that you've seen them as well. My meticulous chronicling of every sighting over the past three years show they've made an appearance in practically every neighborhood: Harvard-Yale—check; Rose Park—yep; The Avenues—well that one is probably obvious to all, but yes as well.

If you've been to a farmer's market or a street fair any time over the past year, you're sure to have seen the one whose bed was retrofitted by Mims Bakery to appear more like a bread box. Turns out sourdough tastes best delivered by microtruck. And if you're wanting a peek without having to search hard, you can always pop in to Nate Wade Subaru on 1300 South and Main Street, where they have a few classic models in the showroom.

Kei trucks exist in an interesting gray area of legality and are weirdly regulated depending on what state you're in. In fact, just this past week the great state of Texas—where everything is allegedly bigger, except automobile freedom—just granted permission to allow these vehicles on the road, something that Utah did way back in 2008.

Short of an ebike or public transit, I can't imagine a better way to get around this "20 is Plenty" city than a kei truck. You'd really have to press the accelerator hard to get above that speed anyway!

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Bryant Heath

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