TOKYO - The Tokyo Motor Show has always been a styling extravaganza. But in recent years it also has become a showcase for environmental technology. That will be true again this year.
The Nissan Motor Co. and Mit-subishi Motors Corp. stands will be more subdued than in past years, in line with the austerity campaigns at those financially troubled carmakers. But there will still be plenty to see.
Press previews begin on Wed-nesday, Oct. 20. The show opens to the public three days later.
Here are highlights of what Japanese automakers will display at the biennial show. All the vehicles listed, unless otherwise described, are concept cars.
Storia 2CD: Toyota subsidiary Daihatsu, owned 52 percent by the Japanese giant, now is supposed to focus more closely on minivehicles, with engines smaller than 660cc. However, the retro-looking Storia comes with a 1.0-liter engine.
The current Storia is being outsold nearly five-to-one by a version badged as the Toyota Duet.
Fleet-X: This touring wagon aims to achieve better running performance, improved space efficiency and reduced weight.
Compared to the Subaru Legacy Touring Wagon, the Fleet-X concept cuts weight by 30 percent with no loss of body rigidity or impact energy absorption. That yields a 40 percent gain in fuel efficiency.
The Fleet-X is powered by a new, 2.0-liter, horizontally opposed, four-cylinder gasoline engine.
Elten Custom: This urban commuter uses a Subaru hybrid power system in an exterior package reminiscent of the 1963 Subaru 360 Custom.
The concept is powered by a 660cc four-cylinder engine, plus two 8.5-kilowatt electric motors working off nickel-hydride batteries, mated to a continuously variable transmission.
It uses energy regeneration during braking, engine-stop technology and electricity generation while idling to boost performance. External charging is not necessary. The company claims 77.6 mpg.
FCX: Powered by a fuel cell, the FCX concept uses a long wheelbase to leave enough room for both the power unit and a reasonably spacious interior cabin.
Honda also is working with Canada's Ballard Power Systems Inc., but the FCX uses a fuel-cell stack, reformer and motor developed in-house by Honda.
Methanol is the source of the hydrogen used by the fuel cell.
Spocket: Designed by Honda in the United States, the Spocket concept is billed as a sports-utility vehicle, even though it has less ground clearance than most passenger sedans.
'Sporty car' would be a more accurate description of this hard-top convertible. It features tilt-up doors, rear seats that boost seating to four (when the top is down) and sporty analog gauges.
Fuya-jo: The Fuya-jo is one of those radical concepts that bear little relation to production vehicles. The name literally means 'No-Night Castle,' but it evokes the sense of 24-hour fun expressed by the phrase 'the city that never sleeps.'
From the outside, it looks more like a toaster on wheels or a diesel locomotive with its small wheels and tall, narrow body with a relatively small greenhouse. The Fuyajo is supposed to evoke the fun of skateboarding.
Indeed, occupants ride perched in a semistanding posture, rather than sitting deeply in seats.
Revolutionary Vehicle Kai: The word 'Kai' comes from the Japanese character meaning time, go-round or innings. As other companies explore sport-utility hybrids, Isuzu sees this sport-utility, with a chassis-on-frame construction, as a look at the next generation of 'pure' sport-utilities.
The concept is designed to fit four adults in a compact body. It features suicide doors and a rear gate that swings open, not up.
The Kai has a newly developed front double-wishbone and rear multilink suspension with two shock absorbers per wheel. An electronically controlled, torque-split, four-wheel-drive system comes from Borg-Warner Automotive.
ZXS: This is the largest concept sport-utility Isuzu is showing. It has a distinctly minivan-style look to the rear, but it is only a four-seater. Isuzu sees it being used around town and then for hauling sports gear, say, to the ski slopes.
Design touches include the lack of B and C pillars, creating a solid plane of window glass between the A and D pillars.
VX-02: The name refers to its VehiCross base (VX), turned into an open two-seater (02) sport-utility convertible.
Add an aluminum front grille, four-point seat belts built into the Recaro seats, and a rear spoiler, and the result is a four-wheel-drive concept that clearly is not intended to trudge through the rain forest. With its red and black interior, the macho rating is off the scale.
RX-Evolv: Mazda officials will not say for certain that the RX-Evolv will make it to production. But they do say, and the concept car makes clear, that it will not be a successor to the RX-7. The RX-Evolv's basic concept is too different from the original RX-7 for it to be a simple replacement.
Several features of the RX-Evolv distinguish it sharply from the RX-7. It has four doors. And it has an integrated child seat in one of the rear seats. Those seats, moreover, are suitable for full-size adult bodies. This is no 2+2 but a legitimate four-person car.
'We're attempting to redefine the sports car,' said Martin Leach, managing director for product planning and design. 'The trend is toward vehicles which provide better packaging and functionality.'
To improve entrance and egress, small rear-hinged rear doors with no center pillar were added. The front doors extend out and forward before rotating to open. The rear doors open 90 degrees.
Each driver will turn on the car with a smart card, which will tailor the car's performance to that driver's abilities. The card of an experienced driver - say, one who has passed a performance driving course - will grant a higher maximum engine output than that of a less experienced driver.
The Renesis rotary engine that powers the RX-Evolv is more compact than the rotary engine used in the current RX-7. That allows it to be placed behind the front axle, lower and more to the rear than before.
It offers maximum 280 hp at 9,000 rpm, and a 10,000 rpm redline. For a less-skilled driver, the maximum horsepower would be 240 at 8,000 rpm.
SUW Active: 'SUW' stands for 'smart-utility wagon,' and the SUW Active shows more of a traditional sport-utility rugged design than its sisters, the SUW Compact and SUW Advance, shown last month in Frankfurt. All three are candidates for production.
A five-door wagon, the SUW Active is tall enough to provide extra head room yet fits within the height constraints of Japan's automated parking structures. With its 16-inch tires and jacked-up body, the SUW Active offers 8.1 inches of ground clearance, providing some off-road capability for this front-drive vehicle.
For environmental reasons, the car uses natural coloring pigment in the bumpers, fender protectors, side sill panels, instrument panel and interior trim.
Nissan says it will not be showing its Z-car concept. If so, it would be the most glaring no-show at Makuhari Messe.
XVL: This rear-wheel drive upscale sedan looks tantalizingly close to production.
The XVL concept is powered by a 3.0-liter, direct-injection, V-6 teamed with Nissan's new Extroid continuously variable transmission. (See Page 39.) Interior touches include controls that allow all occupants to select climate-control settings.
AXY: The needs of Japan's elderly population were just some of the issues addressed by the AXY concept. Its name reflects its focus on 'access' for all.
Door handles, assist grips and levers are larger than usual, to be easy to grip and use.
The interior layout - with its removable front passenger seat, flat floor and sliding rear doors with no center pillars - also makes for easier entry and egress. The extremely low floor is very nearly at curb height and has no sill to step over.
Nissan also loaded the car with a wide range of intelligent transportation equipment, including a system that warns drivers when the car strays from its lane.
Serena Highroof SNOWing: This minivan designed expressly for snowboarders is the ultimate snowbunny-mobile.
The concept has a motor-powered rear seat that transforms at the touch of a button into a flat bed above a watertight box, which is capable of holding four snowboards. There is also a hot-air blower in the rear for drying gloves and boots.
EV-sport: Electric vehicles offer terrific off-the-line acceleration and lousy range. Suzuki takes advantage of the former and compensates for the latter with this open-air, two-seat sporty car.
Using an aluminum space-frame body, with the batteries below the center of the floor, the EV-sport is designed for exciting acceleration. Power comes from an electric power unit developed by General Motors, which owns 10 percent of Suzuki.
If you run out of juice, the EV-sport has an emergency backup 400cc gasoline engine to get you back to the charging station.
MR-wagon: The MR-wagon is more of a tall-roof wagon than compact minivan because it has only two rows of seats. The unusually large wheelbase for its class - 95.7 inches - gives it extra interior room. Power comes from a 660cc, three-cylinder, lean-burn engine.
Pu3-commuter: This two-seat urban car is designed to use any of three power units: gasoline engine, electric motor or hybrid.
Wagon R+ Special: Although this is not a concept car, it could draw some attention if it offers more hints as to the final shape of the Wagon R+-based vehicle that Suzuki and Opel have developed jointly and soon will put on sale in Europe.
HV-M4: Toyota calls it the world's first hybrid four-wheel-drive vehicle. The THS-C hybrid system links a 2.4-liter gasoline engine with two electric motors and a continuously variable transmission. The six-seat van's engine recharges the batteries, so they never need charging from an external source.
Other high-tech touches include the use of light-emitting diode and neon taillamps to save power and low-beam headlamps that draw their light from a remote source via fiber-optic cables.
Lexus Sport Coupe: With the push of a button, this 2+2 coupe drops its hard top in about 20 seconds. Even with the aluminum roof stored in the trunk, there is room in back for two golf bags.
Wood and leather inside indicate that Toyota wants this V-8 car to reassert the Lexus line as a luxury car line, even though half of all Lexus sales in the U.S. market come from sport-utilities or sport wagons.
OPA: Despite the minivanlike rear, the OPA is designed as a roomy mid-sized car seating five.
It is powered by a newly developed 2.0-liter, direct-injection gasoline engine, mated to a CVT.
Open Deck: A tall, boxy concept with a minimal truck bed in back, the Open Deck is a utility vehicle that is not designed for off-roading.
The window behind the rear seats can fold up to lengthen the roof, while the partition between the rear seats and the truck bed folds into the bed for more bed space. The rear seats also fold down, level with the truck bed.
NCSV: Perhaps the name stands for Not a Coupe or Sport-utility Vehicle. This category-breaker hatchback is one of Toyota's attempts to appeal to the younger buyers who have shunned the company's standard wares.
The sharply raked C-pillar makes the low-slung, sporty NCSV's profile look a bit like a coupe that has had a wagon 'cap' attached in the rear. Power comes from a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine.
The vehicle also is an electronics showcase. It features a separate display screen for each person in front; a third screen pops up from the center console for rear-seat passengers.
Origin: Toyota calls it a 'commemorative concept luxury sedan.' Translation: It's a retro look based on the original Toyota Crown. It has all the touches of the 1930s, such as its grille, round headlamps, suicide doors, chrome bumpers and window trim, rear-slanting C-pillar, hint of a running board and heavy chrome bar across top of the rear license plate.
The 3.0-liter, inline-six Origin is a limited-edition production car to celebrate the recent production of Toyota's 100 millionth vehicle in Japan. It was built by the same hand craftsmen who assemble Toyota's flagship Century.
Celica Cruising Deck: Based on the new Celica, it offers an open-air rumble seat in the back so that two passengers can, as Toyota puts it, 'lap up hot rays as you cooly cruise around town.'
To get the suntan seat, the rear window electronically rolls down into the partition dividing the front two seats from the rear deck. Then the partition itself folds flat into the cabin to create an extra-long flat deck. Finally, the rear-hinged deck bed is pulled up to rest upright beneath the rear spoiler to form a seat back.
To keep it all legal, there are seat belts for the rumble seat.
WiLL Vi: This is the first of Toyota's WiLL products, a series of goods that Toyota and several other nonauto companies are developing for buyers under age 30. If this is any indication, Toyota believes that those buyers want funky.
Toyota used focus groups to determine the appropriate steering wheels, external designs, interior fittings and color schemes. It says that the WiLL Vi exudes 'a strong sense of stylish individuality' because the car was formed by 'the piecing together of several planes to create expressive angles.' Others may say that the front half of the car seems disconnected from the rear third- and fourth-quarters.