It was only a 300-metre walk from the Ginza Grand Hotel in Shinbashi to catch the Yurikamome driverless train to the Rainbow Bridge to cross over to Odaiba and the Big Sight complex where the 44th Tokyo Motor Show was being held.
Arriving at 8am meant a wait with global media folk who had arrived in anticipation of seeing the latest and greatest from the world’s vehicle manufacturers, writes Malcolm Yorston.
With typical Japanese punctuality, the barriers came down 30 minutes later for the sea of journalists and cameramen to flow into the event, which takes over two halls.
I went around the east side to start, which fortuitously provided an opportunity to talk with Denso’s management about radio-spectrum issues New Zealand may face in the near future and they have agreed to work with us in regards to that.
The new Prius took pride of place at the first of Toyota’s stands alongside the SIFR, CH-R concept hybrid and FCV Plus concept.
Daihatsu’s stand was next up with its concept disability transporter vehicle and two specially configured Tantos 1s – one for loading wheelchairs from the rear, the other with a “welcome seat” for the front-seat passenger.
Subaru’s new WRX and VIZIV concept were followed by Lexus’ RX 450h hybrid, GS F and RC F GTS concept.
Mitsubishi’s electric vehicles (EVs) and Outlander PHEV were prominently exhibited along with its under-vehicle electrical componentry and the pure-electric i-MiEV.
On the other side of the east hall was Nissan’s new NV200 taxi that it wants to introduce in Japan – it’s the same as those now replacing New York’s old yellow cabs.
Then there was Toyota’s new Hiace “platinum lounge”, which is basically the old Hiace high-top revamped, along with the Alphard convertible and Noah Active Cross concepts, which seems to be aimed at surfers.
Isuzu’s post-World War Two TX 80 five-tonne truck took pride of place at its stand (it reminded me of Bedford’s old K Model with its cab layout almost mirroring the Bedford’s), which helped to restore Japan when the conflict ended. The new four-wheel drive D-MAX X-Series pick-up was also there.
Outside the truck hall, Japan Autobody Industry Association members were showing their wares with many three-axle semi-trailers equipped along with large single tyres and air suspension.
One showcased two rear-axle castering to improve steering, while gull-wing semi-trailers were displayed by some manufacturers. There was even a kei-class ambulance on show.
Back inside was Isuzu’s truck powered by compressed natural gas with cylinders mounted on both sides of the chassis within the wheelbase and to the back of the rear axle.
The Dakar Rally 10-litre class-winning Hino rally truck was alongside its fuel-cell City Bus concept and heavy-duty Dutro hybrid trucks ranging from small two-axle units through to large ones with four axles.
Even though Fuso is now owned by Mercedes-Benz, it retains Mitsubishi’s three diamonds and in New Zealand Mitsubishi still distributes Fuso products.
Its stand showcased its “Super-Great” range, such as the Spider with four hoists attached to the chassis – one with a log grab, one with a bucket, one with six-claw grab and another with an auger. It’s a rather versatile vehicle, but who would have a use for it?
Mercedes-Benz had its Maybach S600 limousine next to its AMG GT, F1 racing car and other AMG models, including a MV Augusta motorcycle.
Honda’s stand had its new NSX, which was stunning in red and ready for club track days, and the Clarity fuel-cell vehicle (FCV).
It was then Back To The Future with the 1960s-looking Cub, but it’s an EV, while Honda’s turbofan engine is being installed into executive jets built by its aerospace division. This contrasted with the small S660 looking sexy in canary yellow.
The Suzuki stand boasted a mobility scooter next to the new Escudo, which is known as the Vitara on our shores, while the new Alto-Lapin was displayed by Indian Motorcycles.
In the afternoon, the west hall beckoned. Intelligent transportation systems (ITS) were on display upstairs with vehicle-to-vehicle, vehicle-to-infrastructure and vehicle-to-people and objects technology (known as V2X), interfacing computers, smartphones with in-car systems and others New Zealand is likely to see sooner rather than later. They included Smart-glass, which will enable head-up displays to become commonplace.
The smart-mobility area had Toyota’s i-Road and COMS, Honda’s MC-B, and Nissan’s mobility concept and ZeiD-C1. Toyota’s hydrogen FCV Mirai was on the next stand next to a refuelling station.
Discussions with Toyota staff here about radio frequency indicate they are willing to look at solutions to the 760MHz issue.
They are working with governments around the world on this and ensured me they will be able to meet all requirements.
Mazda staff on the stand – where the new CX-3 was displayed – were also aware of the issues saying vehicles bound for New Zealand and other jurisdictions are fitted with different modules than those for Japan’s domestic market and transmitting functions can be easily disabled without compromising any other safety features.
Upstairs was also the Style-D Piana. This little two-seater, front-door entry EV reminds me of the old BMW Isetta except it has a wheel on each corner as opposed to on the Isetta’s narrow-track rear wheels. Its power is delivered by a lithium-ion battery for a top speed of 75kph and range of about 120km.
Mazda’s head-turning replacement for the RX-8, which is powered by the new SkyActiv engine, was displayed downstairs. There was also a CX-3 fitted with a SkyActiv 1-5-litre diesel unit and a refurbished 1970s Cosmo Sports.
The Renault stand was next with all its efforts concentrated on the Twingo and its new concept car.
The Nissan stand took virtually half the bottom end of the west wing, and included the IDS zero-emissions EV and Gripz concept, which is a small SUV crossover.
From there, it was onto the e-NV200 – the electric-powered delivery van that uses the Leaf EV technology – while the Wagon-G is configured as a seven seater and, I would imagine, should prove reasonably popular with those looking for an electric people-mover.
The new Leaf boasts a larger solar panel. Not only is Nissan producing EVs, it is also manufacturing hybrids, such as its all-new X-Trail.
Then there was the GT-R Nismo – its good looks should rock a few socks – the 2020 Gand Turismo concept, which looked a bit like a spaceship, the Skyline hybrid and Fuga.
Porsche had its new GT3 Cup race car accompanied by the Panamera plug-in hybrid, which shared centre stage with the Carrera 4S and Macan GTS.
Next up was Audi’s Q7 e-tron quattro PHEV, which was smart and ready for action, its new TT Coupe Cabriolet, TTS in canary yellow and R8 V10 Plus in stunning blue.
The PSA stand showcased the new Citroen DS 3 Cabrio along with a number of other Citroens and Peugeots, including the DS 5.
Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles exhibited its new Jeep Renegade in canary yellow, Alfa Romeo Spider, also in yellow, and the Giulietta in more traditional red livery.
My thoughts after attending the 44th Tokyo Motor Show are that we’re going to see greater connectivity between vehicles and infrastructure with the implementation of more ITS solutions into them.
Electronic stability control (ESC) has become standard across cars with the exception of base-grade vans, while many heavy vehicles were also ESC-equipped.
As I predicted after 2013’s event, many more hybrids are being produced by a larger number of manufacturers.
A marked increase in PHEVs and pure EVs will become available for consumers, while changes in New Zealand will be supply-driven – as has been the shift from manual transmissions to automatics over the past 20 years.
Hydrogen-powered FCVs are in their infancy, but I’m sure we will see a rise in their availability over the coming years.
Malcolm Yorston is technical services and membership manager of the Imported Motor Vehicle Industry Association.