The Tokyo Motor Show is still kicking on. It will be open to the public until November 4, but the media is well and truly done with it. Now that all the manufacturers have played their hands, and the shit (in some cases) has had time to settle after hitting the fan, it seemed like a good time to sit back and take stock on what eventuated from the 41st Tokyo Motor Show.
Unsurprisingly, the global financial crises played its part. Forget about seeing every manufacturer and its cheap spin off company releasing a hybrid or commuter 600cc car – they didn’t. In fact, they didn’t do too much all up. We’re not saying nothing happened, plenty did, but by comparison to past Tokyo Motor Shows, there was a lot of empty floor space. It even led one hack to tell us that he had never seen so many “invisible cars”. For bad joke reasons that hack will remain unnamed.
It couldn’t be helped though, and by comparison to the Sydney or Melbourne Motor Show, the Tokyo version was gigantic. Indeed some may say it’s a bit silly to have a Sydney AND Melbourne Motor Show annually when we are such a small country and big car markets, such as Germany, alternate their motor shows between cities. But anyway, it was about the cars, not the politics.
Being that Japan is the centre of the technological universe (kind of), it wasn’t surprising to see a tonne of kooky designs and concept vehicles. But lets play it straight and mention only what is interesting to Australia and what we may possibly see on our shores some time in the future.
As some of you may have read, we were in Japan courtesy of Toyota Australia, but it’s not because of this that makes us mention them first. They truly did have the most significant launches during the Show. Three that made us prick our ears up and give them our attention. Firstly the FT-86 sports car. It’s the first sports car that Toyota has developed in hell knows how long. The last one we saw was probably the MR2 and a lot of people have been waiting for the next time Toyota threw its hat into the sports car ring. The FT-86 was developed with the help of Subaru, which Toyota owns a small stake in. It will be powered by a 2.0 litre Boxer engine but other details are still sketchy at this stage. It’s still a concept car but we hear it will be released within three years at a cost of between $50,000 to $80,000 Aussie big ones.
Toyota also showed off its Prius Plug-in Hybrid as well as the FT-EV II. With the Prius Plug-In think Prius, add a plug to the front. You can charge it fully in around 3 hours. Hit the links for more info on each.
Surprisingly Mazda didn’t make such a big splash this time at the Tokyo Motor Show. Being that Mazda has already recently refreshed the 2, 3 and 6 line-up down under, there was never going to be a huge amount that would catch the eyes of Aussie journalists. In terms of concept vehicles, the SMH went as far as to say, “On the surface it appeared as if Mazda was doing its bit for the environment by recycling concept vehicles.” They were referring specifically to Kiyora concept vehicle, which made its debut at the Paris Motor Show in ’08. You may have seen it on the cover of Popular Science magazine some months back. The one on display in Tokyo had a new motor in it though which some believe will be the new puller in the next Mazda 2. It’s said this new engine can out do the Prius in terms of fuel efficiency despite being petrol based rather than a hybrid. Sounds good if Mazda can pull it off. 2011 is the scheduled date of release.
Honda has already spent a lot of money on fuel-efficient technology. The tangible result is the FCX Clarity, a hydrogen based car, which is already on test in California via lease plans at US$600 per month. Unsurprisingly Honda was showing off the car at the Tokyo Motor Show. The hydrogen powered fuel cell electric vehicle gives off absolutely no emissions, just water vapour. It also has so much safety technology that it makes Volvo look stupid. Honda also showed off the CR-Z, a new version of the iconic CR-X but a little less Lakemba and a little more Woollahra. For non-Sydney residents that would be a little less speed and noise and a little more environmentally friendly (electric based). It’s the world’s first petrol-electric sports car. If you just can’t wait for it hop into a Civic Hybrid, that will have to do for now.
It was all about the i MiEV at Mitsubishi land. And it’s good to see them come up with something that could possibly be a winner if it is ever released in the Australian market. The 380 sold like poisoned hotcakes and the end of the Lancer Coupe in the early Naughties spelt the end of the Lancer as every third car you saw in traffic. Since then it has pretty much been average if not bad news for Mitsubishi. Oh yeah, I didn’t mention Colt sales… probably a good thing. The i MiEV, which can already be seen around the streets of Japan is Mitsubishi’s saviour, it hopes. It’s a small car, like the Colt, that has zero emissions, runs quiet (not silent though) and costs about a third of the price for operation by comparison to a similar sized petrol powered car. Being completely electric you can charge it with a power point at home. A complete charge takes seven hours while a quick charge to 80 per cent ca take as little as 30 minutes. Of course, these times depend on whether you are using 100 or 200-volt power supply. Any guesses as to which one takes longer to charge your i MiEV? It really is a great little car. And if you were wondering: Mitsubishi Innovative Electric Vehicle. Don’t ask us about the ‘i’ in front of that though. We don’t know.
And the rest? Well, those that are relevant to Australians, Nissan, Suzuki, and Subaru also came up with a few offerings but nothing that would shatter the earth. Nissan showed off the Leaf zero emissions car. Can you see a trend here? That’s right, everyone that was doing something was doing zero emissions cars… not that there is anything wrong with that. It just gets a tad boring to report on over and over again. Thankfully though the Leaf looks a lot better than the Tiida, despite its name. Carlos Ghosn, the boss of Nissan, went all out to push the Leaf. Without wanting to be mean it must have been nice for him to speak positively about something after the Renault F1 scandal with Flavio Briatore and Nelson Piquet Jr. FIY: Nissan and Renault are in bed, hence Renault being Ghosn’s problem too. Poor guy. But perk up, you just signed Robert Kubica for the 2009 season, that’s bound to bring a smile to your face. Oh yeah, it’s only a one year deal and you just lost double World Champion Fernando Alonso… we’re going to go now.
In terms of Subaru, nothing new really. It was all set to show off its version of the swap talent with Toyota that resulted in the FT-86 for Toyota. But nothing. Not yet anyway, and don’t expect it for a while either. They did show off the concept Hybrid Tourer though which was quite cool thanks to its gull wing design that used two doors for a car easily capable of carrying four. In other words, no rear doors, just one gigantic door on each side. It will use a 2.0 Boxer engine as well as an electric motor that seems like two completely opposite worlds, but if anyone can pull it off Subaru can.
Suzuki had something a bit more interesting than nothing. The Swift hybrid; a plug-in that can go a good 20km on its lithium-ion batteries without needing a charge. The Swift is a nimble little car so should do quite well with Hybrid technology in it.
There was plenty more from peeps that you have never heard of and are only relevant to the Japanese market, and a lot of racing cars and bikes on display too. But in terms of what you may see come 2012 on the great roads of Australia, this would be it.
Damian Francis is the editor-at-large for Australian T3 and contributing technology editor for GQ Australia. He was in Japan as a guest of Toyota Australia and wishes he was in Abu Dhabi last weekend for the final round of the F1. Twilight racing – unbelievable!