2001 Tokyo Show, Part II

October 28, 2001

UPDATED 10/28/01

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

Nobody was quite sure what the mood would be at the 35th Tokyo Motor Show, coming just six weeks after the horrific events of Sept. 11, which happened on the first media day at the Frankfurt show. Coupled with the uncertainty of the economy and the ongoing depressed Japanese market, everyone was sure the mood would be subdued. Some even wondered if there would be all the pretty models which Tokyo is famous for, especially as the organizers had said the opening ceremonies would be cancelled out of respect for the victims of the terrorist attacks.

Fortunately the general mood seemed good and even the girls were still out in force on the media days. Indeed, several European auto manufacturers were in a definitely upbeat mood, announcing record sales and profits during the first nine months of the year. Although Japan might be physically nearer the situation going on in  Afghanistan, the problems and concerns seemed further away — although not totally gone as executives said they were not as sure what the future would bring.

One sure sign that the essential excitement of the auto industry is still strong was the way in which motorsports plays such an important role in the building of brand awareness in Japan, even more so than in Europe and far more than in the U.S. There were Formula One cars on display on many stands and Toyota, which will not enter F1 until next year, had its test car on display as it announced sponsorship from Panasonic and Michelin. Honda had two F1 cars from two teams on display. Other manufacturers, such as Mitsubishi, Subaru and Suzuki showed off rally cars.

Although there were fewer show cars than in previous Tokyo shows, there seemed to be a greater emphasis on more realistic concept cars that hopefully will appear in production sooner rather than later.

 

Honda Dual Note
The consensus among the media attending the show was that the Dual Note was the best concept car at the show. The four-door, four-passenger sports car delivers great performance as it is powered by a hybrid version of Honda's 3.5-liter V-6 I-VTEC engine. The mid-engine car has an additional electric motor assist driving the front wheels, making it an AWD car; the combined power output is 400 hp. Yet despite its high performance capabilities it returns a fuel consumption of 50 mpg. The interior also shows that Honda can create one with style and pizzazz. Judging by the relatively sensible exterior styling, this is a concept that could easily see the light of day sooner rather than later as a production vehicle.

 

Honda unibox concept 2001 Tokyo

Honda unibox concept 2001 Tokyo

Honda Unibox
On the other hand, Honda’s six-wheel Unibox concept van was perhaps the least likely to go into production. It featured completely clear panels to display the truss frame. The interior can be configured as a mobile office or a studio. Storage compartments in the doors can hold a special fold-up mini motorcycle.

 

 

Honda Bulldog 2001 tokyo concept

Honda Bulldog 2001 tokyo concept

Honda Bulldog
The Bulldog, as its name suggests, is an aggressive looking mini-SUV. It includes two e-DAX removable electric motorcycles that when folded up and placed in the rear of the Bulldog form the back of the two rear seats.

 

 

 

Honda Model X concept Tokyo 2001

Honda Model X concept Tokyo 2001

Honda Model X

The Model X active-utility vehicle features suicide doors and a stylish interior that is washable. Although this concept might look far removed from a production vehicle, it is rumored to be close to being considered for production and may be exported to the U.S. Technical details are sketchy, but the seats can be easily removed to provide a flat floor. The vehicle is aimed at people who want to enjoy outdoor activities such as surfing; surfboards can be stowed under the seats and the rear of the vehicle can be opened up to provide a short pickup bed- like interior.

 

Honda Asimo

Honda Asimo

Honda Asimo
Apart from working on new cars, motorcycles and powerplants, Honda engineers are also conducting the development of an autonomous walking robot. Asimo (Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility) is the third version since the project began in 1986. The robot played a key part in the media introduction at the auto show demonstrating how well it is able to walk. The 3' 11" high robot weighs 95 lb and is capable of climbing up stairs by emulating the joint movements of human legs and hips. It can also switch on lights and do other tasks using its arms and hands. The diminutive size was chosen so it would not be as threatening and also to save weight. Honda hopes that it will be able to develop Asimo into a useful tool for doing mundane jobs such as vacuuming a house and fetching things for its human masters. Robots have been dreamed of for decades but judging by the way Asimo is developing, Honda just might be able to make sci-fi reality in a few years time.

 

Mercedes-Benz F400 Carving

Mercedes-Benz F400 Carving

Mercedes-Benz F400 Carving
One of the few real surprises at the show was the world premiere of the F400 Carving, a concept sports car that emulates the snow sport of carving. The sports car has active camber control, which allows the wheels to lean over in corners so that only part of the tire is touching the road surface. Mercedes engineers say that they have recorded up to 1.28g going through corners in this car that features several other “X-by-wire” solutions such as drive-by-wire and brake-by-wire.

 

Hyundai TB concept Tokyo 2001

Hyundai TB concept Tokyo 2001

Hyundai TB
Hyundai is a newcomer to the Japanese market, as it has only been on sale there for one year. Although the Korean company has had a tough time making inroads into the world’s toughest marketplace, it is convinced it can do well. Its strategy is to design products to meet Japanese tastes by expanding its localization of products. Hyundai is a major sponsor of the all-important World Cup series next year, which will be jointly hosted by Korea and Japan. It is convinced that the coverage it receives from the event will help build awareness in Japan for its cars. Hyundai officials feel that the production version of the TB ("Think Big") concept car will be an ideal vehicle for sale in Japan as well as Europe.

 

2002 Porsche 911 Targa Tokyo show

2002 Porsche 911 Targa Tokyo show

Porsche 911 Targa
High-end European cars do well in Japan, and Porsche is no exception. Its sales have risen by 24 percent in the past year and the German company hopes the introduction of the newly released 911 Targa will continue the iconic sports car’s successful sales rate. Hans Ridel, executive sales and marketing director, also said that initial dealer response for the upcoming Cayenne Porsche SUV has been so positive that the company is convinced it will be able to sell more than the planned annual production of 25,000 units

 

Isuzu Zen concept Tokyo 2001

Isuzu Zen concept Tokyo 2001

Isuzu Zen
General Motors’ corporate arms reached out to its Japanese affiliates and the second-largest Tokyo display (Toyota/Daihatsu is largest) incorporated Isuzu and Suzuki vehicles. Although Isuzu’s long-term position might be unclear, beyond the fact it’s supplying diesel engines to GM in the U.S., the company showed off a couple of new concept vehicles. One, the Zen, featured traditional Japanese design icons inside such as bamboo wood trim and screens. The interior seats can be moved around so that it can have a completely open floor.

 

Mitsubishi SUP concept 2001 Tokyo

Mitsubishi SUP concept 2001 Tokyo

Mitsubishi SUP and CZs
Several Japanese manufacturers besides Nissan talked about the success of their turnaround plans. Mitsubishi said it was important for the company to establish a design identity. Its French designer Olivier Boulay unveiled concept vehicles that were well received and drew large crowds during media days. The CZ2 will actually appear as a production car later in 2001. The SUP featured outer door panels that could be removed to be used as carrying cases. Aimed at active younger buyers, the car even featured a special storage area under the rear bumper to contain a scooter. The CZ3 Tarmac was an aggressive variation on the theme, which took liberty with styling cues from the Mitsubishi’s successful rally cars.

 

Toyota FSX concept 2001 Tokyo

Toyota FSX concept 2001 Tokyo

Toyota FXS
As the largest Japanese manufacturer Toyota did not seem to appear as the most progressive company as it has so often. Nonetheless it showed off 16 concept vehicles, such as the Japanese version of the Matrix SUV/hatchback/wagon that was first seen back at the Detroit show in January. The aggressive FXS sports car takes the opposite extreme of so many small cars with its V-8 engine.

 

Toyota ist 2001 tokyo concept

Toyota ist 2001 tokyo concept

Toyota Voltz
The Voltz concept car is the Japanese version of the Matrix concept shown at Detroit. The production version goes on sale early next year as a production SUV/station wagon. A smaller variation on the same theme made its debut at Tokyo, called the Toyota ist. It’s powered by a 1.3-liter engine compared to a 1.8-liter engine in the Voltz/Matrix.

 

Toyota DMT concept 2001 Tokyo

Toyota DMT concept 2001 Tokyo

Toyota DMT
A Japanese manufacturer’s lineup of concept vehicles does not seem to be complete without at least one concept van. Toyota’s DMT (Dual Mode Traveler) has a high-mounted driving position and is set up to be as useful when stationary as when moving. It comes complete with enough space in the rear for use as a studio or office when the vehicle is parked.

 

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