At the Tokyo Motor Show, disciples of the Church of Musk would deviate from the true faith

IMx launch.(c) Bertel Schmitt

It’s a popular trope preached by the Church of Musk: Legacy automakers are too stupid and too slow to compete with his holiness. Visit the Tokyo Motor Show, and you are liable to deviate from the true faith. There is nary a large OEM that doesn’t show at least one electrified, self-driving, and connected vehicle.

EV-pioneer Nissan already launched its 2nd generation Leaf last month. At the show, Nissan presents its IMx, an all-electric crossover concept vehicle offering fully autonomous operation and a driving range of more than 600 kilometers. This car is “not a dream,” told me its designer Taisuke Nakamura, “this is something that can be realized in the near future,” meaning in the 2020-2022 time-frame.

The “this is real part was repeated a few times today, and people in the know recommended to expect an IMx-inspired production car “within one car generation,” or 4 to 45 years. [Continue Reading]

Ramen for reporters: Volkswagen cancels Media Night, tonight, and for the future

Where's the party? Stood up by VW at the Meiji Kinenkan

Where’s the party? Stood up by VW at the Meiji Kinenkan

It is Tuesday morning in Tokyo. Tomorrow, Wednesday, the Tokyo Motor Show will open its doors at the Big Sight in Odaiba to the media. Tonight, the always hungry and thirsty members of the Fifth Estate will be sedated with heavy doses of sake and tempura, administered all over town at dinner parties by the world’s (and especially Japan’s) big automakers. Those who are on the guest list of Volkswagen will suffer dry mouth and empty stomach. VW canceled its traditional auto show pre-party, a harbinger of lean times to come. [Continue Reading]

Why Chinese auto exports still suck, using the Tokyo Motor Show as an example



Last Saturday we were on the winding and windy road up to the Mazda Skylounge near Hakone, to catch a glimpse of Mount Fuji, and of a bunch of drifters leaving rubber on Japan’s mountain passes. My mobile rang, and a nice lady inquired, sumisasen, whether I received my tickets to the Tokyo Motor Show, which opens its doors to the press on Wednesday. I assured her that, domo arigatou gozaimasu, everything was received. Today, my Tokyo landline rang. This time, it was a gentleman, inquiring again whether my tickets had arrived. Yes, they did! “And those of Niedermeyer-san?” Yes, right here!  If you want to know why Japanese automakers are first in the world, this is why: A reliable product, paired with impeccable customer service. [Continue Reading]

No shitstorm this time: Toyota S-FR and Kikai target younger demographics

Looks about ready: Toyota S-FR Concept

Looks about ready: Toyota S-FR Concept

Automakers are slowly waking up to the fact that while the gray-haired generation may have the money, the younger generations have the automakers’ future in their hands. In many important world markets, drastically fewer young people are entering the new-car-buying age groups (40-60). You want to have a leg up on the competition if you want to survive the disastrous distribution conflict of more and more carmakers chasing fewer and fewer new car buyers.

At the Tokyo Motor Show, you will see a few steps in that direction. What Toyota will show is diametrically opposed to what the cross-town competition at Nissan will put on display. Where Nissan will present a smartphone on wheels, Toyota will demo a two-pronged attack at the hearts and minds of junior buyers. [Continue Reading]

Approachable, connected: JP OEMs rise up to the young driver challenge


With all the hand-wringing about young people losing their interest in cars, a few things should be self-evident: Growing up with smartphones in their toddler’s hands, the younger generations are increasingly horrified by a breakdown of connectivity. The jihad against texting drives this generation into mass transit. Growing up in a culture where everything is free, and where one volunteers instead of going to work, the car must be affordable (or “accessible” as the word is in the biz.) Carmakers are slowly waking up to that challenge.

At the upcoming Tokyo Motor Show, Nissan will show its “Teatro for Dayz” concept. The car is thought to an EV inside of a kei car body. The interesting part is that the instrument panel will be one huge horizontal screen. The screen is a clean canvass where the driver can arrange gauges etc  like widgets on a smartphone. [Continue Reading]

Carlos Ghosn: Due to the late arrival of infrastructure, there will be a slight delay in the success of the EV. Fuel cell cars remain grounded

Ghosn close - Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt

tmsbannerNissan’s and Renault’s co-CEO Carlos Ghosn famously (and some claim recklessly) projected 1.5 million electric vehicles to be sold between Nissan and Renault when 2016 rolls around.

“Was that optimistic? Obviously it was,” Ghosn granted at the Tokyo Motor Show. Nissan and Renault combined have so sold 120,000 electric vehicles. Nevertheless, Ghosn maintains the 1.5 million target, just not by 2016. [Continue Reading]

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.

[Continue Reading]

Where Detroit sees a closed market, Tesla sees open-minded Japanese customers

Tesla booth - Picture courtesy Bertel Schmitt

tmsbannerTesla is the only U.S. carmaker that busts the American embargo of the Tokyo Motor Show. Despite its rich $15 billion market cap, Tesla showed up in Tokyo with a rather low-rent booth, tucked into a dark corner of the show’s West hall. On display are one and a half cars: A Model S, and a chassis.

Tesla doesn’t share the closed minded close market opinions of the Detroit triumvirate. [Continue Reading]