The Nissan Sakura Is Currently Japan’s Best-Selling EV

This tiny Nissan kei-EV (and its Mitsubishi twin) account for half of all EVs sold in Japan this year. 

With the all-electric Tesla Model Y crossover is currently topping the various sales charts in Europe and North America, it seems that automakers have got it into their heads for the car-buying public to be big, fast and have a battery that should be able to last for a million miles on a single charge. And in order for the automakers to make any sort of profit from such an EV, it unfortunately means that buyers will have to stump up an absurd amount of money for said car. 

But there may actually be a case for the car-buying public to be more interested in a lower cost EV, than one with more performance or a longer range instead. In fact, said EV doesn’t even need to be a crossover (or big for that matter) for it to sell in large quantities.  

A good justification for this argument would be the tiny Wuling Hongguang Mini EV, which currently beats out the aforementioned Tesla as the best-selling electric car in China. And just as further proof to that, it was also recently reported by Bloomberg for the Nissan Sakura kei-EV to currently be Japan’s best selling EV. 

More impressively too, the tiny Sakura (and its Mitsubishi ek-X twin) actually accounted for half the EVs sold in the land of the rising sun this year. Though it is worth mentioning that with Japan not really being all that into the fully electric motoring life yet — with full EVs only amounting to 1.5% of cars sold over there — this remarkable achievement by Nissan (and Mitsubishi) is somewhat tempered by the fact that a rather paltry 35,099 units of this kei EV were sold this year to date. A figure that incidentally is right about half as many cars Tesla sold in China … just this past August alone.

Now of course, given the size of each respective markets, the prior sales comparison may be slightly unfair to the Sakura. This is especially when considering this tiny kei-EV, that is incidentally only sold in Japan, currently outstrips the number of Nissan’s Ariya e-SUV sold worldwide by about 10,000 units in the same period recorded here. 

Japan’s Car of the Year and Kei Car of the Year in 2022, Bloomberg attributes the Sakura’s popularity to primarily be down to its low price. This Nissan kei car only costs about ¥2,000,000 (RM 64,000) in its native homeland, which to put in context is about a third as much as a Model Y over there. 

Moreover, the Sakura is nothing at all like the glorified golf cart its low price might lead one to expect. Sure it ain’t exactly Tesla fast, but its 47 kW motor can still enable this tiny Nissan to achieve a top speed of 130 km/h. And while its 20 kWh battery is perceived to be absolutely minuscule compared to what is currently on other larger EVs, this kei car can still muster up to a more than reasonable 180 km on a single charge. 

What more too is that as said battery takes only 8 hours to charge from flat from a standard wall charger, it does kind of start to beg the question as to why are so many EVs dragging around hefty battery packs, when their owners can instead just plug the Sakura in every night and wake up to a full charge in the morning?

Other kit available with the Sakura meanwhile include a 7-inch digital instrument cluster and a 9″ infotainment system are available with wireless Apple CarPlay, along with ProPILOT ADAS and ProPILOT Park for automated parking. Despite being about 4 metres in length and only 1.5 metres wide too, this tiny kei car also impressively boasts seating for 4 and 100 litres of cargo volume. 

Just pivoting back to the best-selling status of the Sakura again now, its popularity in Japan should really be a sign for Perodua to actually consider a cheap kei EV for the Malaysian market. In fact, if the government is serious about their all-electric agenda, why are they giving APs to Tesla when they should be begging Tan Chong to locally assemble this mass market EV over here instead?

Joshua Chin

Automotive journalist. Professional work on and Personal writing found at Instagram: @driveeveryday

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