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Rhode Island asking kei car owners to turn in their registration

There are about 30 kei cars registered in Rhode Island, according to DMV records, and lawmakers want to take them all off the road. State officials have started asking kei car owners to turn in their registration, which would make the vehicles illegal to drive on a public road.

Rhode Island policymakers first floated the idea of banning kei cars in 2021, and they launched a second offensive earlier in 2024. DMV administrator Walter Craddock argued that kei cars should be banned from driving on the Ocean State’s roads because they “were never manufactured in compliance with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.” Federal law allows any vehicle that’s at least 25 years old to be legally imported to the United States, but each state has the power to decide what motorists are and aren’t allowed to drive on its roads.

While a lot of the talk surrounding the ban has focused on trucks, such as the Honda Acty (pictured), lawmakers are targeting any kind of kei vehicle. If you want to register, say, a Suzuki Cappuccino or an Autozam AZ-1 in Rhode Island, you’ll soon be out of luck. There might be a dim, flickering light at the end of the tunnel, however. Rhode Island senator Lou DiPalma and District 71 representative Michelle McGaw proposed legislation that would allow enthusiasts who registered a kei vehicle before August 1, 2021, to legally keep their car on the road.

Although the registration would remain valid, it wouldn’t be transferable — driving a kei car would be legal; selling one in-state wouldn’t. And, owners wouldn’t be allowed to take a kei car on “limited-access highways, state highways, or through highways … or on any public highway or roadway with a speed limit of more than [35 mph].” For context, you can go faster than 35 mph on a 125cc Honda SuperCub moped.

The DMV opposes the bill, according to local news channel WPRI.

Enthusiasts in other states are facing a similarly steep uphill battle. Maine began de-registering Mitsubishi Delica vans in 2021. It’s not a kei car, but it’s a Japanese-market model that wasn’t developed with American regulations in mind. Texas started refusing to register kei cars in 2024, though a group of owners is actively fighting back. Georgia and New York have both banned motorists from registering a kei car.

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