Toyota Motor Corporation president Fujio Cho with Toyota PM and SU-HV1 concepts
Toyota Motor Corporation president Fujio Cho with Toyota PM and SU-HV1 concepts. Photo: Bill Petro, Toyota Canada

Mitsubishi SE-RO
Mitsubishi SE-RO. Photo: Mitsubishi

Nissan Mobile Terrace
Nissan Mobile Terrace. Photo: Grant Yoxon

Lexus LF-S
Lexus LF-S. Photo: Grant Yoxon

Lexus LF-X
Lexus LF-X. Photo: Grant Yoxon

Mazda Ibuki
Mazda Ibuki. Photo: Grant Yoxon

Honda HSC
Honda HSC. Photo: Grant Yoxon

Hyundai NEOS-II
Hyundai NEOS-II. Photo: Hyundai
Click images to enlarge

by Grant Yoxon

Tokyo – The biennial Tokyo Motor Show has been known to be a showcase for futuristic, but often not too realistic concepts. But at the 2003 show, which opened on Friday, manufacturers kept the unusual to a minimum and the focus on new model introductions and the technologies that will drive the vehicles of tomorrow.

Of course, among the 84 world premieres, there were a few unusual items, like Suzuki’s Mobile Terrace, an airy bubble of a car mounted to GM’s Hy-Wire fuel cell platform. The Terrace is more like a green house with huge amounts of glass and a transparent roof, which hinges upward from a centre spine. Two of the three rows of sculptured seats slide out sideways on a platform through two large forward and rearward sliding doors. Technology aside, it’s hard to imagine ever seeing something like this on the road.

Or Mitsubishi’s SE-RO. Powered by a turbocharged 0.66 litre engine mounted mid-ship, it is difficult to tell which end of the all-aluminum one-box design is the front and which the back. The SE-RO concept maximizes interior space on a mini-car platform, but on a styling scale of 1 to 10, the SE-RO registers a zero.

A number of concepts and production ready vehicles revealed at the Tokyo show could have relevance for Canada. The Tokyo Motor Show provides a glimpse of what auto makers – particularly Japanese manufacturers – are thinking about not only for the Japan market, but also for North America.

Toyota Motor Corporation used the venue to announce that it will launch the Lexus brand in Japan in August 2005. Toyota established Lexus in North America in 1989 and later in Europe and other regions.

Two Lexus concepts were displayed – the LF-S sedan, which could be a future replacement for the GS series cars, and the LF-X crossover sport utility.

The LF-S features a V8 gasoline engine and a high-output motor hybrid system with four-wheel drive. The LX-F crossover sport utility reflects the growing trend toward high performance SUVs, such as the Porsche Cayenne, with a 4.3 litre V8 engine and four-wheel drive.

Toyota also revealed the SU-HV1 concept. Similar to the Lexus RX 330, the SU-HV1 combines Toyota’s hybrid synergy drive with the 3.3 litre V6 engine. Clearly, this is the production-ready version of the Lexus RX 330 hybrid that should go sale in North America next year.

For Toyota, gasoline-electric hybrids are not viewed as an interim technology, but a core technology for the future. It is likely that future fuel cell vehicles will also be incorporated into a hybrid electric system.

Mazda revealed the Miata turbo that will go on sale next year as a 2005 special edition model, as well as a concept that shows where the Miata may go in the future. Power ratings for the turbocharged engine were not announced.

The Mazda Ibuki concept is a continuation of the Miata theme, but engineered for enhanced performance, safety and comfort. The Ibuki is powered by a 1.6 litre four-cylinder engine that is set 400 milimetres further to the rear than the current car. All major components are placed within the wheelbase to enhance handling and driveability. The exterior design, though, is not a radical departure from the current Miata.

Among several concepts revealed by Honda, the ASM Stage is a futuristic minivan similar to the current Honda Odyssey. With a low floor, the ASM accommodates 8 passengers. The powertrain combines a V6 engine with variable cylinder management to reduce fuel consumption and emissions. Innovative technology includes a collision mitigation brake system.

Honda also revealed the HSC concept, which could well be the next generation Acura NSX. The concept car features an all-aluminum frame, aluminum and composite body panels, and is powered by a 300-plus horsepower V6 placed mid-ship.

Hyundai debuted its NEOS-II crossover sport utility concept. With short front and rear overhangs and a bold front end treatment, the concept gives clues to the compact crossover that Hyundai is widely rumoured to be considering for the North American market.

Nissan revealed a mid-sized sport sedan, named the Fuga. Based on the 350Z platform (Fairlady Z and Skyline platform in Japan), the Fuga hints at future directions for the Infiniti G35 sedan, maximizing interior space and refinement in a driving-oriented sedan. Using the same FM (front-midships) platform as the Fairlay, Skyline, G35 sedan and coupe and Nissan 350Z, the Fuga ups the luxury and technical content to new levels and expands interior space for passenger comfort.

One of the most intriguing concepts revealed at the Tokyo Motor Show was the Toyota PM, or Personal Mobility. A vehicle that “fits like a glove”, the PM is a single seat, electric vehicle intended for use in crowded cities, such as Tokyo. “Designed to ‘meet, link and hang out’ the PM is a ‘wearable’ single-person vehicle that targets driver-vehicle unity and offers advanced vehicle-to-vehicle communication,” says Toyota.

The PM can adjust its posture – upright to enable ease of access, dropping for urban driving and fully extending for higher speeds. Vehicle-to-vehicle communications allow PMs to share information as they travel, follow a leader in platoon formation or rendezvous at meeting places. Feeling blue? The PM reflects its driver’s emotions with body panels, lights and rear wheels that change colour.

If auto shows only concerned the practical or production-ready, a day at the show would be a little boring, but concepts like Toyota’s PM, Nissan’s Mobile Terrace or Daihatsu’s D-Bone inject a little fun into the show and at the same time show us what is possible, even if improbable. For a show with imaginative automotive ideas and design, the Tokyo Motor Show is still one of the best.

More Photos

Toyota SU-HV1
Toyota SU-HV1. Photo: Grant Yoxon
Honda ASM Stage
Honda ASM Stage. Photo: Grant Yoxon
Mazda Roadster Turbo
Mazda Roadster (Miata) Turbo. Photo: Mazda
Nissan Fuga
Nissan Fuga. Photo: Nissan
Honda HSC
Honda HSC. Photo: Grant Yoxon
Nissan Redigo
Nissan Redigo. Photo: Grant Yoxon
Nissan Effis
Nissan Effis. Photo: Grant Yoxon
Daihatsu D-Bone
Daihatsu D-Bone. Photo: Grant Yoxon
Toyota Fine-N
Toyota Fine-N (Fuel cell INovative Emotion, Next generation). Photo: Grant Yoxon
Toyota CS&S
Toyota CS&S (Compact Sport & Specialty). Photo: Bill Petro, Toyota Canada

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