Energy-saving electric cars with advanced green technology were vying for attention as the Tokyo Motor Show opened yesterday, with robots and computers becoming ever more part of the vehicles on display.
Companies are showcasing concept cars with “transformable” bodies and automotive computers linked to smart phones, while showing off energy-efficient vehicles with electric, fuel cell and hybrid engines.
On display are the compact, fuel-efficient cars with which Japanese automakers hope to shake up moribund domestic sales as the sector tries to pick itself up from March’s quake-tsunami and the ongoing global economic downturn.
“The Tokyo Motor Show this year, more than any previous year, demonstrates the resilience and tenacity of Japan and the strength of its people,” Nissan Motors Co chief executive Carlos Ghosn said.
Japan’s second-largest automaker Nissan, which is part-owned by France’s Renault SA, is showing off several electric concept cars, including the Pivo 3, which can be remotely maneuvered with a smartphone.
Nissan has already installed automotive telematics in its Leaf electric car, letting drivers remotely control the air conditioning system and check on the car’s battery using a smartphone or PC.
Rival Honda Motor Co, which has long been one of the main players in motor sports, showed off a sports bike and small concept car called the EV-Ster, both with electric engines.
Honda president Takanobu Ito said the automaker planned to install large solar panels at its factories to make its entire operation free of carbon emissions — from its plants to the products they churn out — as it looked to “a society of the future where no environmental stress is imposed.”
Toyota Motor Corp is also looking to burnish its green credentials when it unveils the Aqua, a compact hybrid car, and several concept vehicles including an advanced fuel cell car.
The Aqua, to be sold under the name Prius C outside Japan, is being touted as the world’s most fuel-efficient car at 35km per liter of gasoline, beating Toyota’s existing Prius model at 32.6km per liter.
The Japanese auto giant plans to launch the five-seater model late this month in Japan, before a gradual global rollout.
This year’s motor show will feature 179 exhibitors from a dozen countries and the venue is almost twice as large as the 2009 edition of the biennial event.
Several major foreign manufacturers who skipped the last show are back, including Germany’s Volkswagen, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche; French carmakers Renault and Peugeot-Citroen and Britain’s Jaguar and Land Rover.
Manufacturers from outside the auto industry are also taking part in the show. Among them is Kowa Tmsuk, a joint venture by electric optical machinery maker Kowa and robot developer Tmsuk, unveiling a concept electric vehicle called Kobot, with a body the company says “transforms” via telematics linked to a smartphone.