Tokyo Motor Show still green, tries to spark pizazz

by Masaaki Kameda and Atsushi Kodera

Staff Writers

Japanese and foreign car manufacturers offered a glimpse of the future as they unveiled their latest eco-friendly and unique next-generation concept cars as the 43rd Tokyo Motor Show was opened to the media Wednesday.

The biennial event at the Tokyo Big Sight venue in Koto Ward, which will open to the public Saturday, features 426 vehicles from 178 firms, both up slightly from the 2011 event, according to the organizer, the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association.

However, for the third consecutive show, the Detroit Three U.S. automakers — General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC — are staying away.

This year’s edition is seeing 76 vehicles make their global debut, a steep increase from the 2011 show, JAMA said.

Among the more eye-catching models, Toyota Motor Corp. is displaying a next-generation hydrogen-powered vehicle that it plans to get on the market around 2015.

The fuel-cell sedan can be fully charged in three minutes and boasts a driving range of at least 500 km, according to the world’s largest automaker.

The Toyota FV2 (Fun Vehicle 2), meanwhile, is a three-wheeler with a single seat and is designed to be understood by “the driver intuitively.”

The lone occupant maneuvers the small vehicle, which does not even have a steering wheel, by leaning forward or back and left or right.

The car functions as a “co-pilot,” using technology that can recommend destinations by assessing the driver’s emotions, Toyota said.

“As an automaker, Toyota will stick to offering cars that are a joy to own and fun to drive,” Executive Vice President Mitsuhisa Kato said at a briefing.

At the Nissan Motor Co. booth, President and CEO Carlos Ghosn revealed a zero-emission concept car named the BladeGlider, a three-seat, triangular electric sports car.

Ghosn said the near 360-degree view from the forward seat gives the driver the feeling of being behind the wheel of a racing car.

“Unconventional? Absolutely. I would even say radical,” he said, adding that Nissan’s designers and engineers have challenged conventional thinking about vehicle architectures.

“The BladeGlider shows the potential for a different kind of electric vehicle,” said the head man at Nissan, which launched the successful all-electric Leaf in 2010.

Ghosn also introduced the IDx Freeflow Concept targeting younger drivers, in which a group of young people were invited to join the development team that created the car.

Meanwhile, Honda Motor Co. President and CEO Takanobu Ito introduced two new concept models: the NSX Concept, a “next-generation” sports car that has the base design of the NSX model planned for introduction in North America in 2015, and the S660 Concept, a mini sports car adopting a rear mid-engine layout.

The automaker is celebrating its 50th anniversary since it began sales of four-wheel motor vehicles.

“We made our four-wheel business debut with the Sports 360 sports car model unveiled at the 1962 All Japan Motor Show (the predecessor to the Tokyo Motor Show), which defied the stereotype of ‘kei’ vehicles and symbolized our ‘Don’t fit the mold’ spirit,’ ” Ito said.

Among the models unveiled by Honda Motor Co. is the N-WGN, a kei-class minivehicle that looks like a small minivan, and the Vezel, described as a “next-generation” car that combines “the power of the SUV, glamour of the coupe and utility of the minivan.”

According to Sho Minekawa, Honda’s chief operating officer responsible for Japan sales operations, the N-WGN achieves the right balance between internal comfort, safety and driving performance “beyond the expectations of our customers.” The model will go on sale Friday nationwide.

The Vezel will hit the market Dec. 20, with front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive configurations available in both gasoline and hybrid versions.

Honda also plans to introduce a hybrid compact sedan next spring and a new Legend model next fall, according to Minekawa.

Among the foreign makers participating in the Tokyo show, Volkswagen Group Japan unveiled the twin up! plug-in hybrid concept car, which combines the body of the e-up! small car with the plug-in hybrid system of the fuel-efficient XL1 model.

The Japanese arm of Germany’s Volkswagen AG is displaying the 1.4-liter Golf Variant wagon, which got its first full makeover in four years and will be sold in Japan, and the XL1, a plug-in hybrid that can reach a speed of 160 kph.

The company, whose flagship Golf series of cars sold a record 13,000 units in Japan between May and November, is showing off 17 models, the most among the non-Japanese exhibitors.

The Tokyo Motor Show will end Dec. 1.

  • Franz Pichler

    “eco-friendly” car…. the spin doctors at their best! So, it’s very ecological to dump your old car, by a new one (that consumed a mountain of energy and resources while produced) and than drive it around… lol. call it by its name, a car is never eco-friendly. Pathetic! maybe they even believe in it