TOKYO — Organizers of the Tokyo Motor Show, led by Akio Toyoda as chairman of the country’s industry lobby, are pulling out all the stops to reverse the expo’s falling attendance.
Their goal is to morph it into a different kind of auto show, with plenty of action outside the main halls to draw people to the site, from drift driving demos and music acts to e-sports competitions.
But a dearth of participating foreign brands means the Japanese automakers will have to step up their game.
To do that, the home-market players are planning to deliver a vision of a green-car future. On tap is a parade of electric, hybrid and fuel cell vehicles covering everything from concepts to production car debuts.
Here is an A-to-Z look at world premieres on show in Tokyo, which will begin making headlines next week.
Toyota Motor Corp.’s minicar subsidiary goes fresh and funky with a foursome of quirky concept cars collected under the banner of coming together for a cozy future.
The IcoIco is a rolling box envisioned as a last-mile option for public transport. It looks like a shrunk-down version of Toyota’s self-driving e-Palette shuttle.
The TsumuTsumu is a next-generation multipurpose mini commercial vehicle. The futuristic cargo bed is envisioned as being the landing pad for a farming drone.
The WaiWai is a squat, three-row, six-seat compact minivan with a “modern friendly” design. And the WakuWaku is a rugged-looking mini-crossover with a popup rear roof for easy access to a cargo bay that can be packed with outdoor equipment.
The fourth generation of Honda’s venerable Fit subcompact takes the stage, showcasing a reworked hybrid powertrain for the company’s small cars. The full model change is important because the Fit platform underpins a number of planned product spinoffs, including the HR-V subcompact crossover sold in the U.S. and the Freed minivan, Shuttle wagon and City sedan that are sold elsewhere in the world.
The redesigned Fit has been cleverly packaged to offer a spacious cabin, versatile seat configuration and center-tank layout. But it will also get a new and more compact version of Honda’s two-motor hybrid system. It is unclear whether that gasoline-electric powertrain will be offered in the U.S. version. But the system is part of Honda’s wider goal of having electrified vehicles account for two-thirds of its global sales by 2030.
A full-electric concept vehicle foreshadows what could be Lexus’ first EV. Toyota Motor Corp.’s premium brand isn’t saying much about the vehicle, but promises it will be packed with the latest advances in electrification and autonomous driving and offer a “glimpse into Lexus’ future.”
Mazda Motor Corp., an automaker that has traditionally touted its internal-combustion prowess, will show its first mass-production electric vehicle at Tokyo.
The vehicle is expected to go on sale as early as next year. But still under wraps is what body type it will take. Mazda has prepared prototypes with the powertrain for test drives and camouflaged the EV architecture under the sheet metal of the brand’s new CX-30 compact crossover. In the prototype, the electric drivetrain gets a 35.5-kilowatt-hour battery that delivers 105 kilowatts of power with a maximum torque of 195 pound-feet.
Mazda says the upcoming EV will come in two forms — one a pure electric, the other a range extender.
The pure EV will target markets such as Japan, Europe and China, where an EV can get by with a shorter range. But a range extender is seen as necessary for North America and other markets where daily drives are typically much longer.
The range extender is expected to be powered by a small rotary engine.
Mitsubishi Motors Corp. will pull the wraps off the Mi-Tech Concept, a crossover that uses a gasoline turbine engine to power four electric motors. Two motors are on the front axle and two on the rear. The system is designed to deliver optimum torque to all four wheels.
A rendering of the vehicle depicts a compact, coupe-style open-top cross-over with the front two seats cupped by a divided roof. Oversized fenders lend a sturdy, planted feel.
Mitsubishi is trying to leverage its traditional strengths in crossovers and SUVs as it plots a future-product strategy centered on electrification. The concept embodies both priorities.
Also making its debut in Tokyo will be the Super Height K-Wagon Concept. With a rugged, SUV-inspired design, this entry may foreshadow a next-generation tall-wagon Japanese minicar in the spirit of Mitsubishi’s eK Wagon or eK Space runabouts.
Nissan Motor Co. will tout its technological prowess with a full-electric, self-parking pint-sized city car concept called the IMk concept. The vehicle’s name comes from Nissan’s series of Intelligent Mobility concept vehicles, with the “k” being a nod to the so-called kei class of minicars that are popular in Japan.
The outward stance of the IMk reflects the tall-wagon look of the current Nissan Dayz minicar. But the IMk rides on a new dedicated electric-vehicle platform.
Intelligent Mobility, the “IM” in IMk, is the Nissan marketing term that encompasses its strategy of promoting electrification, autonomous driving and connectivity to consumers.
A smartphone-enabled feature is envisioned as enabling valet parking and can search for a parking space automatically after the driver and passengers get out. A tap of a button brings the car around to pick you up afterward, Nissan says.
Nissan may have other product surprises in store for the show.
Japan’s all-wheel-drive specialist is turning its focus onto the home market this year, previewing the next generation of its popular Levorg wagon and a special-edition WRX STI, both for the Japan market. A teaser shot of the Levorg shows a sportier stance with muscular rear fenders, and an upswept rear side window reminiscent of the styling of the Ascent and Outback crossovers.
Subaru has offered scant details for the car, except to call the show car a “prototype” for the redesign.
Subaru also will unveil a special-edition WRX STI performance sedan to countdown the discontinuation of its 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder EJ20 engine, a powerplant that has been offered in various forms in Japan since 1989.
Japan’s small-car maestro wants to wow with no less than five global premieres. The package of wacky runabouts, all of them concepts, highlights Suzuki’s technological ambitions in electrification and autonomous driving, areas where the company is playing catchup.
The Waku Spo is a plug-in hybrid three-box minicar imbued with a sporty vibe. Suzuki says its body shape and front fascia can be altered with the push of a dashboard button.
The Hanare, meanwhile, is a rounded one-box autonomous-driving van that delivers an experience like a “detached cottage,” according to Suzuki. The automaker envisions the van making use of artificial intelligence.
Suzuki also plans some concept spinoffs of existing nameplates. There will be two versions of the Hustler Concept, a mini crossover wagon for everyday use, and a more rugged urban-outdoor variant for recreational use.
Suzuki also plans what it is calling the “Every go-anywhere baby room.” It takes Suzuki’s Every minivan and reimagines it as a mobile breast-feeding and diaper-changing station for outdoor events, or for use as an evacuation relief center during natural disasters.
A sleek, seductive redesign of the Mirai hydrogen fuel cell vehicle will be Toyota’s top eye candy this year. A near-production concept of the second-generation green car is a rear-slung, five-seat coupe-style sedan. It is a radical departure from the dowdy first-generation four seater.
The car goes on sale next year, and Toyota says the redesign was done expressly for the purpose of using design to draw people to the alternative fuel car. Toyota says it was able to reduce the cost and boost the driving range 30 percent with the upcoming remake.
It rides the same modular vehicle platform as the Lexus LS flagship luxury sedan, making it lower, longer and wider for a more planted feel than the first generation. The so-called GL-A platform was designed to accommodate a variety of powertrains, including hybrids and fuel cells.
Going even more futuristic, Toyota will also unveil an updated and close-to-production version of its futuristic Concept-i pod car, now labeled the LQ. The concept previews a self-driving electric vehicle equipped with a digital assistant for a “personalized mobility experience.”
The LQ is a four-seat electric vehicle with a cruising range of 186 miles. It builds on the Concept-i that was first exhibited at CES in 2017. Toyota said it will have a working version of the LQ ready for public test drives next summer. The car envisions a self-driving future in which an onboard digital assistant called Yui helps with everything from car navigation to safety and comfort.
Also in the show will be the Granace, a large new luxury van for Japan and some overseas markets that goes on sale later this year. The van is intended to offer plush rides in a spacious wood-trimmed interior that can be configured with leather captain’s chairs, either as a three-row six seater or four-row eight seater. The Granace is 17 feet 5 inches long and features a massive, imposing grille.