Thursday, November 08, 2007

Green, Mean, Wacky Cars At Tokyo Motor Show

Are you looking for green, mean and wacky cars? Well, do not look too far. They could be in the Asia Pacific - in Japan in particular. At the 40th Tokyo Motor Show, expect to see idiosyncratic and stunning cars.

This year's motor show is aimed at showcasing thrilling cars designed to captivate the hearts of the next-generation drivers. Amid declining sales in their home market, Japanese automakers have strived to unravel the best concepts that they could offer.

From bubble-shaped fantasy vehicles to sleek petrol-guzzling sports cars, lightweight hybrids and cars designed to feel like riding a rollercoaster, automakers touted their own unique visions of the future, reported the AFP. Rivals flaunted their green credentials with an array of environmentally friendly vehicles crammed into a convention centre near the capital, as record high oil prices prompt unprecedented interest in fuel-efficient motoring.

The auto industry is entering an "era of unprecedented change," said Nissan chief executive Carlos Ghosn, adding that his company hopes to start mass marketing of electric cars by 2012. "The age of sustainable mobility is closer than anyone realizes."

The Toyota Motor Corp. is among automakers trying to lighten the load so as to reduce fuel consumption, unveiling the 1/X (pronounced one-Xth) plug-in hybrid. The concept car is said to be two-thirds lighter than the Prius and twice as fuel efficient thanks to the use of carbon fiber materials.

"We have gone back to the basics and reconsidered everything," said Toyota president Katsuaki Watanabe, who trundled onto the stage on the i-REAL, which resembles a high-tech armchair on wheels.

Both Toyota and Honda Motor Co. strived to alleviate the image of sports cars as gas guzzlers with concept hybrids running on a mix of gasoline and electricity. Honda flaunted the Puyo with a "gel body" to improve safety and "the feel of an adorable pet."

"Nobody's ignoring or bypassing any particular technology," said Ghosn. But it is not all about saving the planet: Nissan took the wraps off its hotly anticipated GT-R supercar, hoping that there is still a market for high-performance muscle machines despite the buzz around hybrids.
And from the Mazda Motor Corp. came Taiki, a concept sports car with a captivating styling and wind-swept design.

"Generally my observations of most sporty cars are: they look great and sales start out great but they decay very rapidly," said Christopher Richter, auto analyst at investment bank CLSA. "You can imagine why makers put sporty cars into their line-ups rather sparingly."
Among the more wacky designs on the motor show was Suzuki's Sharing Coach which looks more like a small spacecraft than a car, with two smaller one-person PIXY pods on wheels that fit snugly inside.

"The Japanese market is still ranked third in the world. But the situation is not good for Japanese automakers," said Hirofumi Yokoi, an analyst at auto consultants CSM Worldwide. "Young Japanese have a different lifestyle. They are not interested in purchasing big-ticket items like cars."

Apparently, it is high time to step on EBC Active Brakes Direct and try more environment-friendly auto technologies. "The future is not just about hybrids," concluded Richter. "When I talk to automakers I sense a lot of uncertainty about what is going to be the dominant technology going forward."

About the Author
Anthony Fontanelle is a 35-year-old automotive buff who grew up in the Windy City. He does freelance work for an automotive magazine when he is not busy customizing cars in his shop.

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