Japanese automakers and car buyers have earned a reputation for being slow to embrace the shift to electric vehicles, but an unlikely domestic winner offers a hint of how EVs can evolve to suit different markets.

Introduced last year, Nissan Motor’s Sakura — jointly developed with Mitsubishi Motors, which sells it as the eK X — is the best-selling EV in Japan this year, data compiled by Bloomberg shows. The models jointly won Japan’s Car of the Year award in 2022 and account for roughly half of all EV sales in the country, with 35,099 units sold so far this year, data by auto industry groups shows.

"We launched a 'kei' EV as it suits Japanese people’s everyday needs and road conditions here,” said Keiko Kondo, Nissan’s chief marketing manager for Sakura’s domestic business, in an interview.