Concepts galore: Around the world of notional cars, in two long Tokyo days

Nissan IDx Freeflow - Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt

tmsbannerMy friend Martin Koelling, the Handelsblatt’s Tokyo correspondent, is despondent. The Tokyo Motor Show does not have enough wasabi for Martin’s developed taste. “In the past, you could see the future from here, as far out as 12 years,” Martin grouches as we walk the show floor in search of headline material. “These days, you barely get a glimpse of the next model generation.” Despair not, there are plenty of futuristic displays to be found, if you just look hard enough.

With that, we bring you the concepts of the Tokyo Motor Show.

FR 86 open concept - Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt

This is the FT-86 open concept, the object of wet (when it rains) dreams of the hachi-roku crowd. Toyota already has shown the ragtop at the Geneva Auto Salon, and it shows it again in Tokyo, up on the wall next to a fuel cell car that will go on sale in 2015.

Unlike the hydrogen car, the topless boy racer probably will never see the light. Subaru’s brand chief Yasuyuki Yoshinaga told Hans Greimel of Automotive News that “the vehicle would require a complete remake to meet safety standards.” Subaru builds the 86 for itself and Toyota, and “if we don’t make it, it can’t happen,” Yoshinaga said. Convertibles are showy, but their market is limited. It’s a long way from ragtop to riches.

Subaru cross sport concept - Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt

Subaru stays dismissive about a topless hachi-roku, but thinks that a cross-over built on the bones of the sportscar could be “the next trend in urban SUV’s.” Not much is officially known about the “Cross Sport Design Concept,” but showgoers are convinced that it is powered by Subie’s trademark 2 liter flat four, and that it could be bang-on with boomers who want at hachi-roku, but suffer from creaky bones.

Toyota i-ROAD concept - Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt

The Daily Kanban already drove Toyota’s i-ROAD, a.k.a. the lean-machine, and it will see limited field tests in Japan and Grenoble, France. Yet, without signed plans for mass production, the electrified and electrifying three-wheeler remains firmly in the concept category.

JPN Taxi concept - Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt

What if Toyota would design a London taxi? It would becomes a JPN Taxi. Still a concept, but I bet we will see something like that at the Tokyo Olympics.

Daihatsu kopen concept - Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt

This small car is Daihatsu’s kopen concept. “Kopen” is, get it? get it? a portemanteau of “kei” and “open.”

Daihatsu is Toyota’s business unit for kei cars, the very Japanese genre of midget mobiles. It is a huge, nearly 40 percent, and growing segment of the Japanese market. Formerly low cost transportation favored in Japan’s rural stretches, kei cars are fast becoming hip among Nippon’s urban set. We say “hip,” because keis are en vogue with Japan’s boomer generation, the younger “cool” set drive Gran Turismo. Empty nesters either go on the quest for their lost youth, driving hachi-roku and Miata sales, or they go for the shabby chic of a kei.

The confluence of these trends is the sporty kei roadster, and the kopen most likely won’t stay a concept for much longer.

Honda S660 concept - Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt

Honda is aggressively taking an increasingly bigger slice of the Japanese kei car pie, and it won’t let the confluence pass it by. The Honda S660 concept has many journalists frustrated, due to the lack of information, but Honda dispenses information in symbolism instead of words. Lined up behind the S660 is the S360, a 1962 era sports-kei. That’s when kei cars had 360cc engines. Now, kei car displacement (if you can call that) is 660 cc. Hence, the S660 is the modern day S360. Wakarimasuka?

With its popular N-Box, Honda rules the hip kei market, and it will not leave the sports kei market to the competition.

Suzuki Hustler concept - Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt

The Hustler isn’t Suzuki’s entry into the world of hard porn, as the name may suggest, but a kei car crossover.

Suzuki Crosshiker X-Lander concepts - Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt

If you are thinking Jimny now: The silver X-Lander concept sits on a Jimny platform with a kind of a hybrid powertrain. The red one is the Crosshiker concept.

Nissan IDx and Bladeglider concepts - Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt

Nissan’s  Bladeglider (front) and IDx (rear) concepts, here presented by Nissan to an international press gone wild, have been and probably will be covered by the Daily Kanban at great length. From the body language we picked up at the show and in dark bars, the Bladeglider may see production earlier than the IDx. Judging from the exposure Nissan gave the two concepts, they will both be produced. We will stay on them.

Subaru Viziv concept - Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt

With Subaru’s Viziv concept, we are entering the realm of what we at the Daily Kanban call the “unified concept design language,” an Esperanto for futuristic cars.

To be proficient in this language, you must have sharp creases and tires that would look good on a penny farthing thing. The Viziv already had been shown in Geneva, but due to a shape that would never get past pedestrian protection regs, it still looks like it will never be built.

Lexus LF-NX concept - Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt

From the same school of the unified concept design language: The Lexus LF-NX, a pedestrian protection nightmare on big tires.

Mitsubishi Concept XR-PHEV - Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt

Mitsubishi’s Concept XR-PHEV already looks a little closer to reality: Iron-out the creases, lose the big tires, shut the big mouth, and it can go in series.

Mitsubishi’s Concept GC-PHEV- Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt

Mitsubishi’s Concept GC-PHEV demos an interesting dialect of the unified concept design language: Still creased, slightly pregnant, oversized wheel-wells, and small tires, just for the hell of it.

Yanmar Y-concept YT01 Advanced Tractor - Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt

For the agricultural set, there’s even a futuristic tractor. With 34 hp, Yanmar’s Y-concept YT01 Advanced Tractor is probably the lowest-powered concept of the show. Otherwise, the farm machine holds its own among tough competition by Tokyo Motor Show concepts. Its sheet metal is sufficiently creased, its lines are sharp, and what it lacks in horsepower, the tractor makes up for in the show’s biggest tires.

Volvo coupe concept - Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt

The Volvo Coupe Concept is said to be close to production. The attentive student of the unified concept design language knows why: It looks more rounded, the creases are mostly gone. Shod with tires a size smaller, and we are good to go.

Mercedes S-Class coupe concept - Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt

Also very well rounded, and said to be close to production: The Mercedes S-Class coupe concept. Mercedes is the second-largest import brand in Japan (after Volkswagen). Volvo is the fifth-largest (after BMW and Audi).

And there you have it. A world-tour of concept cars, covered by foot on two days at the Tokyo Motor Show.

P.S.: After the Concept cars of the Tokyo Motor Show, don’t get your hopes up for the Girls of the Tokyo Motor Show. Not because we are prude. We aren’t.  The show organizers seem to be. There’s hope for the Tokyo Auto Salon.