CHIBA — The 32nd Tokyo Motor Show will showcase automotive technologies focusing on environmental protection and safety as automakers address growing concerns over air pollution and global warming.This year’s show, previewed by reporters Oct. 22 at Makuhari Messe, comes amid a prolonged slump in auto sales in Japan, and both domestic and foreign manufacturers are hoping it will stimulate the market.According to Japan Motor Industrial Federation Inc., the chief sponsor, 330 companies from 14 countries are participating in the event, which alternates venues with Osaka each year. This year’s main theme is “One world. One people. One show.”The governments of the United States, Canada, France, Belgium, Germany and Austria each have booths to promote their auto component industries.The manufacturers are displaying new cars that are said to be environmentally friendly, such as electric vehicles, hybrid vehicles and regular cars equipped with engines endowed with dramatically improved fuel efficiency. Hybrid cars use electric motors in conjunction with gasoline engines to reduce pollutants and increase mileage.”An automaker is naturally expected to provide attractive products. Our products must also respond to many different expectations and issues, including environmental and safety concerns,” said Yoshikazu Hanawa, president of Nissan Motor Co.”We see the Tokyo Motor Show as one forum in which we can present our specific responses to these diverse expectations,” he said.Nissan’s concept car is the Hypermini, an ultrasmall vehicle powered by electricity. The automaker also unveiled R’nessa, a new car that debuted Oct. 22 in Japan.Mercedes-Benz is showing its newly developed NECAE 3, which uses a fuel cell and methanol reformer, while Toyota Motor Corp. is displaying the Prius, its first mass-produced hybrid vehicle.Mercedes-Benz executives said the fuel cell technology in the NECAE 3 will be feasible by 2005.”We pursue one particular vector, which is innovation,” Hiroshi Okuda, president of Toyota Motor Corp., said. “Under the vector, we have two axes. One is the global environment. Under our ‘Eco-project,’ we will make best efforts to produce environmentally friendly vehicles.”The other direction is to further enhance the appeal of its automobiles by finding uses outside usual genres and by creating more added value for convenient and pleasant automobiles, Okuda said.”Environmental friendliness and driving pleasure may seem to conflict, but the two factors are something that can be achieved in the same field,” Okuda said.To allow visitors to experience driving electric vehicles, an EV section with a 200-meter driveway has been set up, JMIF officials said.Many compacts that have gained global popularity but have not yet been introduced in Japan, such as the A-class from Mercedes-Benz and the KA from Ford Motor Co., are also on display.Both vehicles will debut in Japan next year, according to the two carmakers.Foreign automakers are also expanding their presence in Japan by establishing their own dealer networks.Francois Castaing, executive vice president in charge of international operations at Chrysler Corp., said, “We are very encouraged by the progress we have made.”Chrysler announced in September it will end a distribution agreement with Honda Motor Co., which has been selling Chrysler’s Jeep at its dealer networks.”The sheer size of this market makes Japan important to Chrysler,” he said. “Chrysler’s distinctive products will achieve greater acceptance in this market.”In an effort to increase the size of Chrysler’s current 20-dealership network in Japan, Castaing also invited Honda dealers to participate in Chrysler’s network and continue selling Jeeps.Konen Suzuki, president of Ford Motor Co. in Japan, also stressed the importance of Ford having its own dealerships in the country.Ford’s policy is to sell cars created by the company at its own dealerships, he said. Ford sales in Japan currently stand at 45,000 units a year, but in the early 21st century, it aims to sell 200,000, Suzuki said.The motor show will be open to the public from Oct. 25 through Nov. 5. The admission fee is 1,200 yen, and people who come after 4 p.m. will receive a 200 yen discount.JMIF officials are expecting about 1.5 million people to turn out this year.
Auto show shifts into environmental gear