Association, Inc.

Issue No. 1, 2012

Rev(i)ving the Tokyo Motor Show

by Peter Nunn

When the 42nd Tokyo Motor Show opened its doors to the media on November 30, so a new era also opened up for Japan's top automotive showcase.  With a new venue and a new format, this was the Tokyo Motor Show shifting gears and looking to reclaim its place among the world's top auto shows through a dazzling mix of cars, concepts and cutting-edge green technology.

Sportiness and driving fun were also to be found in this innovative, new-look show which stretched to motorcycles, commercial vehicles and imports, yet happily also included more than a few offbeat designs, as per Tokyo Motor Show tradition.  

For Japan's makers, compact new-age eco cars using next generation petrol, hybrid, electric or even fuel cell power were clearly one dominant theme.  Some fascinating future forms of connected urban mobility were also on display.  One such was Toyota's Fun-Vii, a small wedge- shaped concept likened to a 'smart phone on wheels'.  Body sides and interior images could be switched electronically to reflect how you feel, thus taking the art of personalisation to a new level. 

From Nissan, the Pivo3 was another interactive 3-seat concept for future city use which, with 4-wheel electric motors, could execute a really tight turn, for example virtually through 360 degrees on its own axis.  Honda had its Micro Commuter concept in this category while away from the main stands, some other avant-garde mobility devices like the shell-shaped Kobot from Kowa Tmsuk were on hand, ready to surprise and delight visitors inside Smart Mobility City 2011. This was a special hi-tech expo showcasing how cars, buildings and social systems will increasingly interact in tomorrow's world.  

Toyota, Suzuki, Mitsubishi and Honda were among those displaying efficient new plug-in hybrid models.  Mazda's Takeri sedan embodied the company's full range of SKYACTIV green technology, while Suzuki's bewitching, retro-themed 800 cc Regina sedan was another to show how far conventional technology can yet be developed, able to run 32 kms on a single litre of petrol.

Further out was Daihatsu's FC showCASE, a square-shaped 'mobility solution' with the firm's own zero-emission fuel cell system on board.  Foreign media in particular loved the eye-popping design of this engaging Japanese concept.  Daihatsu's D-X sports two-seater and Honda's EV-ster showed how new small eco cars can also be fun.  This year’s Tokyo show also marked the coming-out party for the Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ, two completely new, rear-drive sports coupes that were jointly developed and have already played to rave reviews.

With major European manufacturers also returning with strong displays, the Tokyo Motor Show had a confident, upbeat feel again this year.  And talk shows, symposiums, test drives and other special events integrated into the programme made this very much a 'live' event.

Coming at the end of what's been both a tragic and exceptionally tough business year for Japan, the 42nd Tokyo Motor Show came across as an encouraging symbol of Japanese can-do spirit and resilience.

The press release for the 42nd Tokyo Motor Show 2011 is available here.