1999 Ford 021C concept interior
FORD 021C If you don’t get it, "then you’re probably not meant to," says Marc Newson, the celebrated Australian product designer who got a chance to design his first car for Ford’s Tokyo exhibit. Forget fancy electronics and futuristic powertrains, the in-your-face 021C is a back-to-basics vehicle that stands in sharp contrast to the other prototypes found at Makuhari Messe this year. "It’s not trying to be a profound statement," acknowledges Newson, who’d previously tried his hand at everything from pop bottles to aircraft interiors. "But it’s a happy statement. This industry takes itself very seriously, but I come from a different perspective." For his part, Ford’s design chief, J Mays, is keeping a close eye on the way the 021C is received by Tokyo showgoers. A production version wasn’t originally intended, but, well, that position could change. Incidentally, if you’re wondering about the car’s unusual name, it originally derived from industry color charts, where 021C stands for bright orange. But Ford officials suggest it also stands for "21st Century."
1999 Mazda ActiVehicle concept
1999 Mazda RX-Evolv concept
ROTARY REDUX AT MAZDA? Mazda’s legendary and long-lamented rotary engine just might be headed for a comeback, at least if the prototype RX-Evolv is any indication. It was one of four concept cars the Japanese automaker rolled out for the biannual auto show. The unusual four-door design is aimed at "people who like to go out with friends," says Mazda President Jim Miller. Under the hood is the next-generation "Renesis" rotary engine which, while still under development, is intended to deliver up to 280 horsepower, with a 10,000-rpm redline. "It’s the rotary engine that enforces Mazda’s identity and individuality," adds Miller. The Renesis is naturally aspirated, a move designed to hold down production costs. The fact that the RX-Evolv is just being shown in prototype form disappoints some fans who had expected Mazda to roll out a production version at this year’s show. But Mazda Managing Director Martin Leach notes "If we get a good reaction, we will do it." In fact, there could eventually be two versions, a higher-end model, much like the RX-Evolv, and a more basic, two-door sports car. Along with the RX-Evolv, Mazda’s concept crop also included the ActiVehicle Concept, a close approximation, according to Leach, of what Mazda’s new compact SUV will look like when it hits market next year.
1999 Suzuki EV Sport concept
1999 Suzuki PU3 concept
SUZUKI EV SPORT AND PU3 In the case of Suzuki’s battery-powered EV-Sport concept vehicles, there are plenty of places to go. There’s an array of advanced technology onboard designed to improve the two-seat sports car’s performance, and also to extend its range. But unlike conventional electric vehicles, which can wind up stuck on the roadside when their batteries run out, the EV-Sport features "an emergency engine…so you can continue driving." Noted Suzuki CEO Osama Suzuki. As with many of its competitors, the automaker put an environmental spin on much of its Tokyo Motor Show-ings. The PU3-commuter is designed to drive "just like a scooter," and it’s not much longer, at 2675 millimeters, or barely eight feet, bumper-to-bumper. The PU3 could meet a wide range of market demands because it can use any of three different powertrains, an internal combustion engine, a battery-powered electric motor, or a gasoline/electric hybrid package. Both EV-Sport and PU3-commuter show the fruits of Suzuki’s cooperation with General Motors, which provided much of the alternative powertrain technology.