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10/25/03-11/05/03 LESS WACKY AND MORE GREEN

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, Oct 26, 2003

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

10/25 LESS WACKY AND MORE GREEN

By Contributing Editors CHRISTOPHER MERLO and CHUCK DAPOZ Photos by JAMES KUBIK and CHUCK DAPOZ

The Tokyo Motor Show has long had a reputation for displaying wacky design exercises that force you to smile because of unusual shapes, colors, materials and vehicle uses. The 2003 show runs from October 25th to November 5th.

More than 40 world premiers are on the stands, but the grin factor at Makuhari Messe, the Tokyo Convention Center, is lower than in years past. This year, only a handful of the vehicles are truly whimsical. In place of the outrageous are a raft of green powerplants, especially hybrids. Perhaps budgets have been tightened. After all, a concept vehicle can easily cost a million dollars. Or perhaps the Japanese manufacturers, following the recent trend of the North American and Frankfurt shows, now want to focus on the real world rather than fantasy. Whatever the reason, Tokyo is still exciting, and it remains the epicenter for observing trends in compact and minicar designs that are the hallmarks of the Asian market. That aside, we miss the cartoon vehicles that have long defined the character of the Tokyo Motor Show.

OTHER MAJOR IMPRESSIONS FROM TOKYO

  • A surprising number of "dune buggy" designs, featuring open cockpits, satellite fenders or seeming inspiration by the Jeep CJ.
  • There's a growing interest in capturing and defining a Japanese design aesthetic both when it comes to physical design cues as well as function - thus the preponderance of "green" powertrains.
  • Only three non-Japanese brands premiered products (Hyundai, Jeep and Mercedes). That's notable because 1) it's fewer than usual and 2) Japanese manufacturers continue to introduce numerous products in European and North American auto shows.
  • English is used more than ever. More than half of the press conferences were conduced in English, including three of the eight Japanese manufacturers (Nissan, Mitsubishi and Suzuki).
  • There's no display for Isuzu. At the last Tokyo Motor Show, Isuzu was as prominent as any other Japanese manufacturer.

MOST-NOTABLE VEHICLES TOYOTA PM

Toyota PM (concept vehicle) The most photographed vehicle this week in Tokyo is the Toyota PM (for Personal Mobility). That's a good thing, because it's difficult to describe without pictures. The PM is a one-person electric car shaped like an upright pod or cocoon. It also looks somewhat like a bug because gooseneck-mounted headlights stick out like insect eyes. The driver enters through a canopy, which is hinged at the top of the car. After sitting down, the seat rises, and the canopy closes. This position is suitable for low-speed driving, though for higher speeds the wheelbase can be lengthened from 43.3 inches to 78.7 inches, reclining the cabin into a more stable and aerodynamic profile. In place of a steering wheel are two joy stick-like controllers, one for each hand. The front wheels can turn independently, and when turned in fully allow the PM to rotate; in other words, the PM has a turning diameter of zero inches. Using instant messaging and other communications, PM drivers can track and talk with nearby PM drivers. And if you meet up with other's you want to travel with, the PMs can travel together in single file, with the lead car driving and up to three other's following automatically. MERCEDES-BENZ F 500 MIND

Mercedes-Benz F 500 Mind (concept vehicle) If a prize were offered for packing the most technology and innovations into a single vehicle, it would go to the Mercedes-Benz F 500 Mind. Mercedes calls this sedan a research laboratory for a new generation of cars. The powertrain is a V8 diesel hybrid producing 250 hp from the internal-combustion engine plus 68 hp from an electric motor. In place of B-pillars is a single interior pillar between the two front seats, connecting a reinforced floor plan to a Y-shaped roof structure. The roof is mostly glass, so you can readily see the top of the Y reaching from the corners of the windshield to the central pillar, and then extending to the rear of the roof. This structure also houses air-conditioning ducts and interior lights. The rear doors open from the back - or from the front, providing a wide opening since there is no B-pillar. In place of accelerator and brake pedals are pressure-sensitive plates, which increase the footwell by 4.7 inches, allowing the front seats to be moved forward and thus providing added space for rear passengers. Steering is controlled electronically. A night vision system uses two infrared laser headlights combined with a camera in the windshield. It projects a black-and-white image on the instrument panel "illuminating" the road 500 feet ahead, compared with 130 feet for conventional low-beam lights. More than a dozen safety, comfort, powertrain and human-machine interfaces are found in the F 500 Mind, which Mercedes hopes to incorporate into future vehicles.

Tokyo Part 2: Japanese Big 3 Honda Kiwami (fuel cell) Honda IMAS (hybrid) Honda HSC Honda ASM Lexus LF-S (hybrid) Lexus LF-X Nissan Jikoo (hybrid or fuel cell) Nissan Serenity Nissan Redigo (hybrid)

Tokyo Part 2B: Japanese Big 3 Nissan Effis (fuel cell) Nissan Fuga Nissan C-Note Nissan Cube3 + Conran & Partners Toyota Fine-N (fuel cell) Toyota NLSV Toyota SU-HV1 (hybrid) Toyota Crown (Toyota PM is reviewed in the introduction under Most-Notable Vehicles)

Tokyo Part 3: Other Japanese brands Daihatsu D-Bone (660 cc mini engine) Daihatsu ai (660 cc mini engine) Daihatsu UFE-II (660 cc mini engine) Daihatsu XL-C (660 cc mini engine) Daihatsu E3 (660 cc mini engine) Daihatsu Mira Selfmatic (660 cc mini engine) Mazda Ibuki Mazda Roadster Turbo Mazda RX-8 Hydrogen RE (hydrogen engine) Mitsubishi SE-RO (660 cc mini engine)

Tokyo Part 3B: Other Japanese brands Mitsubishi CZ2 Cabriolet Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII MR Suzuki Mobile Terrace (fuel cell) Subaru B9 Scrambler (hybrid) Subaru R2 (660 cc mini engine) Suzuki Concept-S2 Subaru R1e (electric) Suzuki S-Ride (660 cc mini engine) Suzuki Landbreeze (hybrid) Suzuki Twin my style

Tokyo Part 4: Non-Japanese brands Hyundai NEOS-II (Mercedes-Benz F 500 Mind is reviewed in the introduction under Most-Notable Vehicles) Jeep Treo (fuel cell or hybrid)

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