The Japanese auto industry presented many concept cars, most of them focused on lifestyle, where words such as enjoyment, comfort, spaciousness, and crossover were applied to new products. There was a clear dual focus on crossover/SUVs and minivan/robotaxi EVs.
Toyota staged a “mobility theme park” to immerse visitors in the maker’s vision of the future through demonstrations of futuristic concepts. The aim was to help each visitor feel like a resident of a future mobility society wherein “beloved cars” bring driving fun to everybody, as a wide range of mobility responds to each customer’s needs. Still, not everything in the future will necessarily be amazing in a Star Trek type of sense; there will still be a need for the utilitarian. The E-Palette interior, for example, was executed as a standard good quality shuttle interior.
The single-seat mobility e-4me concept allows the passenger to use their time en route to do whatever they want, enjoying various services without being bothered by other people: individualism as a luxurious lifestyle service!
This futuristic vision was showcased without even exposing the vehicle! not even the new Mirai was relegated to a new technology space. But the main booth included an e-Racer, as Toyota president Akio Toyoda said “The birth of the car has resulted in the replacement of 15 million horses by cars in the US but we still have racehorses”—meaning that car racing will continue.
The theme of Toyota subsidiary Daihatsu’s booth was “Gathering: Providing Warmth to Everyone’s Lives”. The Daihatsu brand here focused on kei cars—the smallest highway-legal passenger car class in Japan, with severe constraints on every aspect of size and an exemption from Japan’s strict parking-availability certification prerequisite to buying larger cars. Kei cars represent a third of the Japanese market in sales volume. Daihatsu presented concept cars for each kei car segment.
The WaiWai provides a surprisingly spacious and stylish interior, and is designed and configured to satisfy demands of parents, for example, whose needs and wants can change from moment to moment. And for out-of-doors activities, Daihatsu showed the WakuWaku: the front seats prioritize driving, while the rear compartment is more flexible to accommodate passengers, cargo, and whatever else one could want to bring along.
Daihatsu, like all automakers at the show, presented an autonomous public transporter: a robo-taxi minivan called the Ico lco which includes a “Nipote” (“grandchild”) robot to serve as an assistant with carrying capabilities.
Lexus unveiled its “Lexus Electrified” vision for an upcoming generation of electrified vehicles. The concept comprises many advanced technologies such as a new human-centered interior design philosophy and a steer-by-wire system. Onboard AI distinguishes the voices of vehicle occupants, and uses personalized information stored on the driver’s control key to serve as a partner. It facilitates the adjustment of elements of the interior environment, such as HVAC and audio, and the setting of navigation routes and destinations, while also making proposals for activities after arrival. Interior design and materials expressed a warm, futuristic feeling—take a look at the waffled textile covering the door panels, for example.
Suzuki, № 2 in Japan’s kei cars—they sell 450,000 of them a year—presented a wide variety of vehicles. Their futuristic PHEV Waku Sport is transformable as a coupe or a wagon: the wagon pat of the roof retracts to become a coupe, or vice versa. The lack of a B-pillar permits sliding rear doors for easy ingress and egress.
Suzuki’s autonomous robo-taxi minivan concept, the Hanare urban mobility solution, is an EV with a pod like layout meant to carry passengers—sort of like an MPV of the future. Top-hinged side panel doors allow walk-in, walk-out access.
Suzuki also showed the Hustler small SUV with new design packages, but still complying with the kei car size limits, including its 3-cylinder petrol engine.
Nissan had 14 models on display including the IMk, a new 3.43-meter EV concept coming as successor to the IMx presented two years ago, and the 4.6-meter Ariya crossover concept. All the concepts on display centered around Nissan Intelligent Mobility, the company’s vision how cars are powered, driven and integrated into society. These two concepts illustrate the dominance of the electric vehicle strategy for the brand that has already capitalized on, as R&D chief Kunio Nakaguro put it, the “12 billion kilometers traveled by Leaf owners”.
The Ariya concept, sized like the Rogue, also shows Nissan’s new design identity and the company’s new vision of an electrified brand identity. Presented by Nissan design chief Alfonso Albaisa, the new design theme philosophy is called “Timeless Japanese Futurism”. The Ariya looks athletic, with its big tires—but we have some questions about the interior space; surely a compact interior feeling is not the trend of the show.
The Ariya also incorporates Nissan’s latest version of the Pro Pilot 2.0 driver assistance system, combining highway driving with single-lane driving capabilities without user intervention: the system may assist the driver in overtaking, lane deviations and lane exits on multi-lane highways.
Probably to emphasize the family link with the Alliance, Renault had a modest booth in the Nissan zone, presenting mainly the Renault Lutecia, which is the Japanese version of the Clio.
Subaru came right out and said “There will be cars that can make our lives even better” through its philosophy of enjoyment and peace of mind, including an ambitious target: zero fatalities in Subaru cars by 2030!
Models on display included a prototype of the next Levorg, which looked very production-ready. Its interior was not visible because of dark windows, but Subaru describes it as “your personal space” in accord with an office, home, or any other space where you’ll spend a lot of your time. Per the specs, it is a feature-rich and inviting space: full black leather upholstery with blue stitching, reclining rear seats, D-shaped telescopic steering wheel, USB power outlets front and rear, a 5.9-inch high-definition color display, front and rear view monitors to ease visibility at intersections and when parking facing a wall—speaking of which, the rear view camera can assist with parking maneuvers by projecting a live image.
Subaru is using Panasonic’s Nanoe™ display protection technology to get rid of fingerprints and dust. The same base technology is used for an in-car air purification system that deodorizes, inhibits the growth of bacteria and viruses, and is effective in dust removal to create a fresher and cleaner interior environment.
Subaru’s Viziv Adrenaline concept is a hybrid SUV first introduced at this year’s Geneva motor show. It’s the first concept vehicle designed under the new Subaru “Bolder” design philosophy to combine off-road and active lifestyle. Size and styling of the Viziv Adrenaline hint that this could possibly be the look of the next Crosstrek.
Honda took the wraps off the completely new Fit (known as the Jazz in certain markets). This 4th-generation Fit comes only with gasoline-electric hybrid powertrains, and offers a spacious cabin realized with Honda’s original center-tank layout and a versatile seating arrangement from the previous generation Fit. The forward cabin design is a simple one, with clean lines and a touchscreen mounted in the center console. In Japan, five different versions of the new Fit will be offered: Basic, Home, (Fit)ness, Crosstar, and Luxe.
Honda also showed a brace of vehicles—the spacious new Accord, the Freed mini MPV, the boxy N-box, the N-Van, and the NSX—which together express a certain classicism of the brand. And the new “e” model, in its Japanese premiere, demonstrated a new fun-and-lifestyle approach to appeal to the EV target customers. See our DVN-I report published this past June for more detail on the e.
The Mitsubishi Engelberg Tourer mid-size SUV evolves MMC’s own Twin Motor PHEV drivetrain developed in the Outlander PHEV with the addition of next-generation electrification technology and four-wheel control. Drivetrain has been made more compact and the layout has been optimized to deliver more passenger space and make it possible to offer a package with three rows of seats.
The Mi-Tech is an interesting, but—frankly—weird concept, seemingly completely impractical—there’s no roof, and limited space for occupants related to the overall size of the car—perhaps to direct full attention to its unusual powertrain flexibility: it can run on anything (within reason) poured into the tank, from gasoline or diesel to kerosene or alcohol. Whatever is poured in is used to generate electricity to power the wheels.
Then there was the eKX Wagon, a tall-wagon kei car arising from the Mitsubishi-Nissan joint venture NMKV. The eKX was promoted on strength of its comfortable space with “stimulating, attractive detailing and smart usability,” fashionable looks, and practicality. The dashboard uses MMC’s Horizontal Axis concept to provide excellent forward visibility in a clean design.
Here’s the new Mitsubishi Super Height K-Wagon, another boxy cubic monospace, targeting a maximized interior space, a long wheelbase allowing a wide rear door, and maximum space—especially knee room—for rear passengers to feel free and uncramped.
That’s certainly not all the delights on display at the Tokyo Motor Show. Watch for our forthcoming coverage of the enormous amount of show space dedicated to suppliers, in a DVN-I Report to be released next month including suppliers such as Toyota Boshoku, Toyoda Gosei, Tokai Rika, Denso, Aisin, Faurecia Clarion, Marelli, Yazaki, TS Tech, Keishin, Imasen, Delta, Hitachi, Nischa, and more.