Japanese brands try to rev up a slumping show
TOKYO -- Japan's carmakers are going all out to put some zing back into the beleaguered Tokyo Motor Show. The exhibition used to be Asia's premier industry event, but in recent years it has been overshadowed by bigger shows in Beijing and Shanghai.
The global financial crisis nearly wiped out the last show in 2009, when virtually every major foreign automaker sat out. The Detroit 3 are staying home again this time. But other major players -- including BMW, Mercedes, Volkswagen, Land Rover, Jaguar, Audi and Porsche -- will be back.
BMW and Volkswagen even promise a few global premieres. But the domestic brands will dominate.
Toyota, for example, will unveil the Aqua compact hybrid, to be called the Prius C in the United States, as well as close-to-market concepts for an iQ-based electric car and a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. It also will unveil a highly anticipated sporty car developed jointly with its affiliate, Subaru.
The show's organizer is making changes to rekindle interest in the event. After 20 years of being held outside Tokyo at the sprawling Makuhari Messe in Chiba, the show will move to Tokyo Big Sight, a smaller convention center in Tokyo's waterfront district.
Here's a sampling of production and concept vehicles making their debuts during press days Nov. 30 and Dec. 1. The show opens to the public Dec. 2.
Details are scant for the 4-series hybrid, which gets its world premiere in Tokyo. BMW says the car will go on sale in Japan in the late spring.
Honda says the AC-X, which gets its name from Advanced Cruiser Experience, and two other concepts hint at cars that could come to market in about 2020.
The AC-X is a wedge-shaped plug-in hybrid sedan that gets styling cues from the Honda FCX Clarity fuel cell vehicle.
The Honda Micro Commuter Concept is a three-seat city runabout with what Honda says is a range of 37 miles from its lithium ion battery. The so-called Loop Batter battery pack can be taken out and plugged into other vehicles, including an electric minimotorbike. That two-wheeler, dubbed the Motor Compo, can be loaded aboard the Micro Commuter Concept.
Honda is waiting until the show to give detailed specifications for the Small Sports EV Concept, a compact convertible electric vehicle. But advance sketches depict a stubby, low-slung car reminiscent of the CR-Z sporty hybrid.
Honda also will present the N Box, the production version of a 660cc minicar for sale in Japan, and the N Concept, hinting at a possible direction for next-generation minicars.
Mazda's Takeri mid-sized sedan concept foreshadows the next-generation Mazda6. It brims with Mazda's new Skyactiv fuel-saving technologies, including the Skyactiv-D clean diesel engine, the new six-speed automatic transmission, a new body and chassis framework and a stop-start system with regenerative braking.
The PX-MiEV II is a close-to-market version of the Outlander hybrid crossover scheduled to arrive next year. It has a two-motor plug-in hybrid system running on a lithium ion battery and a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder gasoline engine. One motor powers the front wheels, one powers the rear ones.
Mitsubishi will show a production version of the Mirage. Output begins in Thailand next year, and the vehicle will be sold in the United States as early as 2013. The hatchback is powered by a 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine teamed with a continuously variable transmission.
The Pivo3 looks much closer to market than either of its "bubble-on-wheels" predecessors, the first of which was shown at the 2005 Tokyo show. It has a tiny 6.5-foot turning radius, thanks to in-wheel motors that allow wheels to turn independently.
The Nissan NV350, a production van that will go on sale in Japan next summer, also makes its world debut. It is a larger follow-up to the NV200 van, which goes on sale in the United States in 2013.
The Advanced Tourer Concept, Subaru's latest vision for its first hybrid vehicle, gets its world debut. The car, expected in 2013, uses Toyota's hybrid technology. Its downsized 1.6-liter turbocharged, direct-injection engine is teamed with a hybrid electric motor system and Subaru's latest continuously variable transmission.
Subaru also will introduce the production version of the BRZ rear-wheel-drive sporty car.
The Swift EV Hybrid concept, which gets its world premiere, is based on the Japan-made Swift small car, which was once planned for the United States, but put on hold because of unfavorable currency rates. The car uses a gasoline engine to recharge the batteries, much as the Chevrolet Volt does.
The bubble-shaped two-seater Q-concept is one of two 660cc minicar concepts. Suzuki says the vehicle is positioned between a motorcycle and an automobile and is meant for short urban commutes. The other concept, the Regina, weighs only 1,609 pounds.
The Scion FR-S sporty car debuts under the Toyota badge for the Japan market. Production of the rebadged sibling of the Subaru BRZ sporty car is expected to begin early next year. Toyota did the exterior design, while Subaru supplied the boxer engine and will build the car.
The Prius C, as it will be known in North America, makes its world premiere in production form as the Toyota Aqua for the Japanese market. The subcompact hatchback based on the Yaris platform goes on sale in Japan next month as the Toyota Aqua and will hit U.S. showrooms next year. It is powered by a 1.5-liter engine teamed with a new Toyota hybrid system, which includes a new inverter, motor and battery and weighs about 88 pounds less than the system used in the standard Prius.
The Prius Plug-in Hybrid, due next year, uses a smaller lithium ion battery than the leasing models already being tested worldwide. The smaller battery provides more luggage space.
The FT-EV III concept makes its global debut before going on sale next year in the United States as a Scion. Charging the battery pack takes about three to four hours under a 200-volt system, compared with eight hours for the rival Nissan Leaf, in part because the Toyota car's battery pack is smaller.
The FCV-R, a close-to-market vision of the hydrogen-powered, fuel cell sedan Toyota plans to start selling in 2015, makes its world debut as a four-seat concept which draws takes styling cues from the Lexus HS-250h hybrid.
VW is planning two world debuts. One is a concept coupe-like crossover similar to the BMW X6 and the other is a wagon version of the European Passat sedan with an all-wheel-drive system called Alltrack.
Ryan Beene contributed to this report
BMW 4-series hybrid
Honda N Box
Toyota sporty car (Scion FR-S)
Toyota Aqua/Prius C
Honda Micro Commuter
Honda Small Sports EV Concept
Mitsubishi PX-MiEV II
Subaru Advanced Tourer
Suzuki Swift EV Hybrid
Toyota FT-EV III
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