Text: Lester Dizon / Photos: Lester Dizon | posted November 07, 2003 08:25
Cars for the Environment
The Tokyo Motor Show in Makuhari Messe has always attracted and impressed millions of visitors, journalists and auto enthusiasts alike. This year proved to be the same, except the concept cars were executed with more emphasis on their impact on the environment. Autoindustriya.com was there at the 37th edition of the motor show last October and here's what we saw:
Toyota, Japan's biggest and largest selling carmaker introduced its Crown Concept, a luxury sedan with enough safety features to rival the best and the safest luxury sedans from Europe. It showed its fuel cell technology with the Fine-N concept, propelled by electric motors housed in each wheel. The company further announced that its alternative fuel vehicle will soon be commercially available. Also on display were concept speedsters, a snail-like adaptable vehicle and their latest dream machines courtesy of Lexus, Toyota's luxury brand.
Honda, the country's second largest automaker in terms of sales volume, displayed its own world-renowned technical prowess by showing off, among others, an 8-seat hybrid minivan powered by a V6 gasoline engine supplemented by an electric motor. Honda underscored its technological strengths by having the low-strung Kiwami concept sedan on display. They also displayed a sporty two-door sports car with a mid-engine layout and chose the motor show as the venue to launch their new Honda Odyssey minivan.
Nissan, Japan's third biggest automaker and partnered by France's Renault, displayed close to a dozen models highlighting various concepts and technologies including fuel cells, innovative interior as well as exterior packaging. Nissan Motors CEO Carlos Ghosn arrived with a big impression by driving their concept convertible to the display area.
Mitsubishi, the fourth largest automaker in Japan, displayed an assortment of products including their Lancer (including one in its mouthwatering EVO-VIII guise), Pajero, Outlander/Airtrek, Grandis, Colt and 660cc eK. Features like Mitsubishi's MIVEC high- performance variable valve timing , its turbocharging and intercooling experience and gasoline direct injection (GDI) technologies were all brought to fore by the production models. Their concept cars were also designed with environment-friendly power plants but were sheath in exciting exteriors that invite adventure and fun.
Mazda, owned largely by the Ford Motor Company, showed off the Ibuki roadster as well as a hydrogen-powered version of its groundbreaking RX-8 Wankel rotary-engined sports car. The brand may have been absent from the Philippine for quite some time, but it will begin its return next year with the RX-8 and the Mazda 6. As a bit of trivia, the Mazda Tribute and the Protégé are produced in the Philippines and are exported to Thailand and Indonesia, so the return of the mark will be easy for Ford Philippines.
Subaru, now a subsidiary of another American automaker, General Motors, unveiled a variety of electric powered models, both big and small, most of which boasted the company's legendary and rally-winning all-wheel-drive technology.
General Motors showed off its strong Chevrolet and Cadillac brands, as well as its Hummer, Buick and Pontiac vehicles by launching 13 vehicles. The long and expensive Cadillac Sixteen was housed in an equally hi-tech display, and even though it was a well-shown concept car, it continued to attract attention and admiration. GM also showed its Hy-Wire concept which marries hydrogen fuel cell technology with "drive-by-wire" steering, braking and throttle controls.
Ford wetted our appetites for exotic cars with its supercar, the 500-hp Ford GT. The red exotic was inspired by the 1960 GT40 and rekindles the rivalry between Ford and Ferrari, not only in Le Mans, but for the "entry-level" supercar bragging rights, if ever there was one. The GT was also designed to cap the celebration of the company's centennial in style. Excuse this writer for not writing about Ford's other displays but the GT really grabbed our attention.
Chrysler, after having been overtaken by Toyota as the third largest automaker in the world, debuted its sexy Crossfire coupe as well as its 5.7-liter V-8 powered 300C Touring Concept rear-wheel-drive wagon. The company plans to expand its minivan line, where they have been the strongest in the market, while improving their Jeep and Dodge brands to conquer the SUV market.
Meanwhile the other half of the DaimlerChrysler equation, Mercedes Benz, showed their Maybach hyper-luxury automobile, their sporty V8-powered SLR supercar which was developed jointly with F1 car builder McLaren as well as other expensive models. The Stuttgart factory wants to upstage its Munich rival, BMW, which emerged as Japan's third largest importer in 2002.
BMW would prove difficult to upstage with its 20-vehcile display highlighted by the new 6-series coupe, the 5-series sedan and the even newer X3 sports utility vehicle. They also flaunted the technology and metallurgy they acquired from racing in Formula 1, as they hung a Williams-BMW F1 race car upside down from the ceiling of their display area. The BMW stand was adjacent to the Mini booth which showcased the cute sedan's many iterations, including the "Italian Job" tribute model.
Volvo, on the other hand, displayed its Versatility Concept Car (VCC) together with the critically acclaimed XC90 model and the latest S40 model. The XC90 had a dynamic display mechanism that showed the internal workings of the SUV, which also won the 2003 Car and Driver magazine's "SUV of the Year" award.
Audi showcased its long and large Pike's Peak all-wheel-drive station wagon-cum-SUV, its low and sexy concept all-aluminum Le Mans sports car and other models. Land Rover, Alfa Romeo, Peugeot, Fiat, Opel, Citroen, Renault, Saab and Volkswagen likewise showed their latest and their environment-friendly concepts. Korean carmakers Hyundai and Kia were there, too, their well-executed production models and concepts cars displaying a decidedly up-market slant to highlight their higher automotive aspirations.
And of course, super premium brands like Porsche, Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini, Aston Martin, Jaguar, Bentley, Bugatti and Rolls Royce were all out in force with their expensive and spectacular cars. This writer had the privileged to sit in Lamborghini's new V10-powered Gallardo supercar at the company's display stand and was able to inspect the exotic Ferrari Enzo up close and personal.
The tuners were also out in force this year with Gemballa, Sportec and Zagato leading the displays. Porsche automobiles seemed to be the tuner's favorite show piece, with about half a dozen 911s, Boxsters and Cayennes gracing the tuners areas. Zagato, of course had the Aston Martin Zagato, which has been its basis for its exotic car editions.
The sheer size of the Tokyo Convention Center, which housed the motor show, proved that two days are simply not enough to admire each model and absorb all the information from the stands. Of course, the pretty and radiant Japanese promo girls, not to mention the breath-taking Italian ladies of Alfa Romeo and the beautiful Korean models of Hyundai and Kia had their share of distracting the author from dispatching his duties.
But all in all, the 37th Tokyo Motor Show remains a bastion of the automakers might and a peep hole into which we can see the future of automobiles.