2003 Tokyo Motor Show
2003 Los Angeles Auto Show Ford banner with type
As reporters enter
Makuhari Messe, the convention center housing the biennial Tokyo Motor Show,
they’re greeted by the ear-splitting road of 20 road racing simulators. Along
the side aisles, auto parts makers and aftermarket vendors pitch digital
gadgetry for your car, as well as auto-related games for your car. The Japanese
are electronic crazy, and that passion is often combined with their fascination
with animation. We’re not talking Disney. Japanese “anime” tends to be raw,
sexy, brutal, blending sci-fi hardware with dungeons-and-dragons settings.
Unlike American comics and cartoons, anime crosses into the Japanese mainstream,
so much so that a sizable portion of the guys and —
young women on the auto-show stands
have been dressed in costumes right out of the latest comic books. Of course,
skimpy also sells in Japan, so “cheesecake” remains a must-have for automakers’
Siemens Tokyo 2003
Invasion of the Pod People
No, this Toyota concept, one of the big
draws of the show, was not created for the remake of Invasion of the Pod People.
Nor is it meant to show the
future design of the vending machines ever so popular with Japanese consumers.
The name is short for “Personal Mobility,” explained Toyota CEO Fujio Cho,
during the automaker’s hour in the auto-show spotlight. Like most automakers,
Toyota is searching for ways to win over a new generation of buyer, and this is
its cutting-edge idea of what might find a niche in tomorrow’s crowded urban
environment. Rather than driving a PM, the automaker suggests you’d “wear” the
electric vehicle, which has a variety of modes that result in the passenger pod
moving up and down. When you get to your destination, the seat gently lowers you
to the ground —
without anyone having to insert a coin.
Cho declared the Fine-N concept the “ultimate
eco-car,” and “the culmination of 100 years of vehicle development.” While others
might resist such superlatives, there’s no question the prototype will be
drawing plenty of attention as a high-line showcase for Toyota technology. Built
around a new, low-profile fuel-cell stack, the Fine-N features an extremely low, flat
floor that, because of its close-to-the-road
center of gravity, minimizes concerns about SUV rollovers.
Four in-wheel motors mean all-wheel-drive control. By integrating a lithium-ion
battery and increased fuel tank pressures, Toyota claims a cruising range of
more than 300 miles.
Many industry leaders promote the idea that
hybrid-electric technology is just a stop-gap until the fuel cell is ready for
prime time. Cho disputed that concept, arguing that
HEVs will find long-term application in the auto industry. To
underscore that point, Toyota rolled out a number of show cars integrating the
automaker’s sophisticated, second-generation Hybrid Synergy Drive. That included
the obviously named SU-HV1. The sport-ute hybrid blends electric drive with a
3.3-liter V-6 engine.
CS&S 2+2 mounts its Synergy
drive midship to give the roadster sports car handling. An even more advanced
version of the hybrid technology is mated to a 1.5-liter gasoline engine, and
rigged to provide all-wheel-drive. The CS&S’s rear seats can be hidden away
by a sliding canopy when not in use.