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2001 Tokyo Show, Part III


2001 Tokyo Motor Show Index by TCC Team (10/22/2001)

 

Volkswagen W-12 concept Tokyo 2001

Volkswagen W-12 concept Tokyo 2001

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PERFORMANCE AT ANY PRICE? Volkswagen’s new CEO is giving all-but official confirmation the automaker will put its W-12 supercar into production. “I love it, but the question is whether customers will love it,” cautioned Bernd Pischetsrieder of the 600-horsepower two-seater, noting that a final decision should be made within a matter of months. A track-ready version of the 2640-pound W-12 set 10 separate speed and endurance records earlier this month. The prototype shown in Tokyo can soar from 0-100 kmh (62.5 mph) in 3.56 seconds and hit a top speed of 350 kph (219 mph). As for price, “a half million,” Pischetsrieder declared, “currency to be defined.”

 

2003 Mazda RX-8

2003 Mazda RX-8

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ZOOM-ZOOM BOOM. Mazda will be flooding the market with “the most focused product blitz our company has ever launched,” said the Japanese automaker’s youthful CEO, Mark Fields. There’ll be 16 new products for the Japanese market over the next three years, 11 for North America and nine for Europe. These include an all-new mid-size sedan, dubbed the Atenza in Japan, and the Mazda 6 for the U.S. The only thing in common with the current 626, Fields quickly added, “is that they both have four doors.” Mazda also used its Tokyo Motor Show news conference to reveal the final, production-ready styling of the long-awaited Mazda RX-8. The four-door sports car will make its appearance in showrooms “very early in 2003,” and Mazda is betting its unexpected roominess will win it fans among those who normally couldn’t accept sports car compromises. A rumored price of $25,000 to $30,000 “is somewhere in the ballpark,” according to Fields. He also noted the automaker’s interest in seeking other applications for the all-new Renesis rotary engine.

 

Ford 2001 Tokyo Motor Show

Ford 2001 Tokyo Motor Show

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FORD FALLS BACK. After spending more than a decade trying to build itself into a mainstream Japanese nameplate, Ford has decided to retrench. It will focus on its other brands, including Mazda and Volvo, and let the flagship Ford nameplate serve a small niche audience. As a result, there was little new from Ford in Tokyo other than Japanese versions of the Thunderbird and Mustang Bullitt. “We’re really acknowledging Ford can’t be a volume brand” in Japan, admitted Asian operations director Henry Wallace. “I don’t know if it is a retreat. I don’t know if the other strategy was sustainable.” Until recently, the automaker had tried propping up the Ford of Japan brand with rebadged Mazda products, with annual sales peaking at nearly 90,000.  This year, they’re headed for the 12,000 mark, according to Wallace, though he said “We hope over time it will (grow to) 25,000.”

 

IMPORT IMPACT. Japan’s demand for foreign-made vehicles continues to lag behind that of other major markets, and is expected to barely reach 10 percent this year, or well under 1 million units, according to industry sources. Ford’s fallback stresses the hard lessons many imports have learned. General Motors also has been de-emphasizing imports, though it believes it can succeed where Ford failed, by partnering with its Suzuki affiliate to produce the new Cruze, “an Asian car for Asian buyers.” It’s the first Japanese-made GM product since 1929. There have been a few import successes. Volkswagen expects to see sales grow by seven percent this year, to 53,000, which would give them more than a quarter of the overall Japanese market. The automaker believes it could soon top 70,000. Ford’s Jaguar subsidiary is also riding a wave. Fueled by the new X-Type, Jag sales hit an all-time monthly record in September, and the automaker expects to set its third consecutive annual sales record for 2001.

 

Opel Astra Xtreme concept Tokyo 2001

Opel Astra Xtreme concept Tokyo 2001

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OPEL AT THE XTREME. There’s a high likelihood Opel will put its edgy Astra Coupe Xtreme into limited production, new CEO Carl-Peter Forster told TheCarConnection. The 444-horsepower Xtreme made its debut at the Geneva Motor Show last March and has generated a lot of unexpected orders, even though it’s not currently on Opel’s official schedule. “We’re talking to a number of people” said Forster, to see if they would really be willing to buy the sports coupe. Admitting he’s leaning towards giving Xtreme the go, Forster said, “We’ll make a decision within the next (few) months.”


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