2005 Tokyo Motor Show

October 19, 2005

2005 Tokyo Motor Show Index by TCC Team (10/18/2005)

Nissan GT-R

Nissan's eagerly-awaited GT-R sports car has come a long way since CEO Carlos Ghosn promised to put it back into production during the 2001 Tokyo Motor Show. Four years later, a new show car, dubbed the GT-R Proto is back on the Nissan stand, and according to chief designer Shiro Nakamura, it's "80 to 90 percent" of what the final production car will look like. The concept vehicle is clearly one of the hits of the 2005 Tokyo gathering, but Nissan officials are keeping observers guessing about specific details. For his part, Ghosn hinted the revived sports car will be loaded with a variety of high-tech features - think active suspension, computer-aided traction and steering systems and other goodies, sources suggest. A well-placed insider said the final production version, due to market in 2007, will boast a twin-turbo V-6 of somewhere between 3.5 and 3.8 liters, and making north of 450 horsepower. "The GT-R has an international cult following," said Ghosn, promising, "Those expectations will not be disappointed."

Nissan AVM

Nissan's AVM test vehicle sees everywhere at once. Well, almost. Short for Around View Monitor, the modified minivan features an experimental system that integrates images from four separate video cameras: one looking down from each side mirror, another mounted on the grill, and the last pointing rearward. On the built-in video monitor, it looks as if you're actually looking down on the van, and in routine use, the system can help a driver spot obstacles in every direction from the AVM, such as curbs or a kid on a tricycle. There's no timing set for introduction, Nissan officials cautioned, though they added that much of the hardware is already in use on some advanced products, such as the Infiniti M45 with Lane Departure Warning, with its two mirror-mounted cameras.

Nissan Amenio

With its airy glass ceiling, Nissan's Amenio show vehicle is a multi-purpose people carrier expanding on the "Modern Living" concept previously shown in prototypes like the Teana and Fuga. The seats, for example, are designed to look and feel like lounge chairs, rather than the inside of just another minicar. The front and second-row seats also tilt and slide, with power stowaway legrests, similar to those on a business class jet. Like many Tokyo show cars, there's a heavy emphasis on technology, telematics in particular. A huge, 18-inch widescreen monitor dominates the center console. Its high-resolution display will provide real-time information about what's going on around the car, including point-of-interest information provided by businesses, restaurants, and other locations nearby.

Nissan Foria

This compact coupe "delivers classic elegance without being retro in design," said Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn. The Foria show car is a 2+2 coupe, with a front-engine, rear-drive layout. It features an extremely short front overhang, with a midsize engine under the long hood. The Foria's automatic transmission is operated by a Formula One-style paddle shifter. Visually, the mot notable touch is the B-pillarless doors, the rear doors opening "suicide" style. This approach is meant to provide especially access to both front and rear seats, Nissan officials explain. The Foria's rear curves gracefully into crystalline taillamps. The interior combines a gray sports jersey fabric, brown leather, and ivory-colored front seats. The built-in video display can provide a variety of different forms of data, from navigation maps to point-of-information accessed while driving.

Nissan Note

The mission of the Note (subtitled "inspired by adidas") may be as obscure as its name. The concept vehicle is meant to provide "new value for young people," suggested Nissan chief designer Shiro Nakamura. The Note is aimed at Japan 's so-called "Remix Generation," and is meant to connect with those who see sportswear as the height of fashion. "Wearable" fabrics are used both inside and outside and could easily be interchanged by an owner, even the surface treatment of the bumpers, according to Nissan designers. Other unusual touches include an enameled glovebox opened and closed with a zipper, and a removable center console storage container. There's also plenty of Velcro on which to hang miscellaneous toys and accessories.

Hyundai Neos-3

The edgy Neos-3 could provide a glimpse of what's to come from South Korea 's Hyundai Motor Co. The stylish crossover vehicle, sculpted to minimize wind resistance, features an array of high-tech features, including radar-guided pre-crash sensors, an infrared viewing system, and adaptive headlights. The road-ready prototype is powered by a 4.6-liter, 32-valve V-8, mated to a six-speed automatic. Inside, the Neos boasts a variety of infotainment systems, as well, including an 11-inch video monitor. Various electronic systems are controlled through a series of buttons and a computer-style trackball. According to Hyundai, each of the crossover's three rows has a different, tech-driven purpose. Up front, there's a so-called "excitement zone," with a "comfort zone" in the middle. The fold-away third row is the appropriately named "comfort zone," though perhaps it could have been an additional excitement zone.

Ford Equator

Struggling to connect with consumers in Japan and other Asian markets, Ford brought a stylized version of its Escape sport-utility vehicle to Tokyo. With its "large premium surfaces," oversized tires and massive grille, the Equator was influenced by regional tastes and styled by Ford's Japanese design studio, noted Paul Gibson, design director for the Asia/Pacific region. Ford's sales in the import-wary Japanese market have risen about 10 percent over the last year, boasted Mark Schulz, the automaker's executive vice president of international operations. But that still means sales of barely 500 vehicles a month, he acknowledged.

Mazda Senku

Mazda has never been one to shy away from unusual designs, as the four-seat RX-8 sports car attests to. But it takes the rotary-powered sports car theme a great deal further into the space age with its Senku concept vehicle. The show car, with a name that means "pioneer" in Japanese, also features four seats, though getting into the rear seat is even easier than with the RX-8, thanks to power sliding rear doors. The rotary engine is mated to a hybrid system that serves as an electric supercharger, as well as a way to boost mileage. Don't be surprised to see a toned-down version of this design serve as the model for a future production vehicle, according to sources.

Bugatti Veyron

After one of the longest roll-outs anyone can recall, Volkswagen's supercar brand had some good news to tell at the Tokyo Motor Show. The 1001-horsepower Bugatti Veyron is actually in production. The plan is to produce about one a week, or 50 a year, according to Bugatti boss Georges Keller, though the factory "could get to 70 by adding a second shift." All told, the reborn brand promises to produce no more than 300 over the life of the 254-mph Veyron. At an even one million euros per copy, it's anyone's guess how many potential customers would actually be willing and able to ante up.

Japanese Wary of DetroitWoes

If Japanese automakers are gloating over the problems facing their American rivals, they're certainly not doing it in public. The topic arose repeatedly during conversations around Makuhari Messe, the sprawling suburban convention center where virtually every major executive of the Japanese auto industry gathered on Wednesday. "I didn't expect Ford and GM to be in this bad a state," admitted Takeo Fukui, CEO of Honda Motor Co. As for Toshiyuki Shiga, chief operating officer at Nissan, he does "not believe (the Big Two) are on the verge of bankruptcy," but added, "we're not underestimating the situation." There was no clear consensus on how to respond, especially to recent problems at U.S. suppliers, such as the bankrupt Delphi Corp. Japanese makers are definitely concerned about the possibility of supply chain disruptions, now that they're using more American-made parts to supply their "transplant" assembly lines. Fukui suggested that in the long run, companies such as Delphi, Ford and GM "need to go through this competition to be stronger as an organization." But Nissan's Shiga echoed an equally common sentiment among Japanese executives. "If a big wave came, it would not be favorable to a small boat," he said, likening Nissan to the vulnerable craft. A potential political backlash seems unlikely, other Japanese officials privately suggested, but not out of the question if it were to cost a large number of U.S. jobs.

Ford Not Interested In Alliance

Ford Motor Co. is not looking for a merger partner or any other alliance as a way to solve its current fiscal problems, declared the automaker's COO, Jim Padilla. In an interview with TheCarConnection.com, the Ford executive insisted, "People underestimate how difficult it is to make a relationship work." There's certainly pressure on Ford to solve its problems, Padilla agreed, "but you can't assume there's a panacea out there." Padilla's comments come as word of possible alliance talks flow through the industry's chatty, global rumor mill. Most often, such gossip seems to link Ford with Nissan, the Japanese turnaround company. For his part, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn insisted such talk is just that. At the same time, he said the company "is open" to a potential alliance. It already proved that such deals really can work, with its French ally Renault getting credit for helping revive Nissan's flagging fortunes. But there are no plans, nor discussions underway, Ghosn quickly added.

Ghosn, Ghosn, NOT Ghone

Ford CEO Bill Ford has acknowledged approaching senior executives at several rival companies about joining the beleaguered Detroit manufacturer. That apparently includes Dieter Zetsche, the former Chrysler CEO soon to be chairman of DaimlerChrysler AG. But whether Ford has also tried to tap the widely hailed Nissan/Renault CEO, Carlos Ghosn, is apparently a matter of debate. The jet-setting Ghosn said "rumors of my leaving Nissan and Renault are unfounded," though he declined to specifically deny any effort to recruit him. "Approaches are not always direct," he said, somewhat cryptically. "I like what I'm doing," he added, "and see no need to change." Some observers have speculated that with Nissan on the mend, Ghosn might seek other challenges, but he emphasized that "I think Nissan has more potential to deliver."

Mazda Switching to Direct Injection

While green machines didn't dominate the floor at Makuhari Messe the way they have in years past, automakers from Japan and abroad certainly didn't ignore the issues of mileage and emissions. Mazda CEO Hisakuzu Imaki opened his company's press conference by promising to "pursue" direct injection gasoline technology, which could soon dominate the Japanese maker's powertrain lineup. DI systems inject fuel directly into the cylinder to improve the combustion process, boosting both performance and mileage, while lowering emissions. Mazda, added Imaki, is developing a "smart" engine stop/start system that will go into mass production "in three years." It's also set to begin testing of a new hybrid powertrain system developed by its U.S. affiliate, Ford Motor Co. A prototype, hydrogen-powered version of the RX-8 sports car will go into limited leasing next year, while a hydrogen-fueled version of the Premacy is under development, as well, according to Imaki.

Infiniti: Slow and Measured Roll-Out

Nissan's luxury brand, Infiniti, is beginning a slow and measured global roll-out. It recently entered the South Korean market, and is now on sale in parts of the Mideast. Russian distribution will begin by mid-2006. But despite the push by Lexus, the luxury division operated by Nissan's arch-rival, Toyota , there's no need to hurry up, said Carlos Ghosn. The Nissan CEO said there are a number of steps still needed to build up the Infiniti brand, including new product and an increased emphasis on customer service and satisfaction. An entrance into the tough Western European and Japanese markets, will not occur, said Ghosn, "until after 2008."

Separately, Ghosn said he is rethinking plans to bring the Renault brand back to the United States. The executive assumed dual titles earlier this year, when he was also named CEO of Nissan's French affiliate, Renault. Ghosn's predecessor had been hoping to re-enter the American market by 2010, but "for the moment," said Ghosn, "I have no plans for the U.S. " Bringing Renault back will require some serious planning and execution, he explained. "To go to the U.S., you have to commit your soul, your money, and your dreams."


Name Symbol Last Change
Autobytel, Inc. ABTL 4.50 -0.14 (-3.02%)
Autoliv Inc. ALV 41.28 -0.32 (-0.77%)
AutoNation Inc. AN 19.18
ArvinMeritor Inc. ARM 15.07 -0.09 (-0.59%)
American Axle & Mfr. Holdings Inc. AXL 21.97 -0.25 (-1.13%)
Ballard Power Systems Inc. BLDP 4.97 -0.07 (-1.39%)
BorgWarner Inc. BWA 57.04 -0.42 (-0.73%)
Cummins Inc. CMI 80.65 -0.82 (-1.01%)
Dana Corporation DCN 6.97 -0.22 (-3.06%)
DaimlerChrysler AG (ADR) DCX 49.93 -1.77 (-3.42%)
Delphi Corporation DPH 0.36
Dura Automotive Systems DRRA 3.33 +0.06 (+1.83%)
Eaton Corporation ETN 59.25 -0.67 (-1.12%)
Ford Motor Company F 8.47 -0.19 (-2.19%)
General Motors Corporation GM 29.12 -0.97 (-3.22%)
Gentex Corporation GNTX 15.84 -0.44 (-2.70%)
Goodyear Tire & Rubber GT 13.80 -0.38 (-2.68%)
Honda Motor Co. Ltd. (ADR) HMC 28.97 -0.51 (-1.73%)
Johnson Controls Inc. JCI 66.47 -0.09 (-0.14%)
Lear Corporation LEA 30.34 -0.18 (-0.59%)
Magna International Inc. MGA 67.00 -1.00 (-1.47%)
Motorola Inc. MOT 20.17 +0.23 (+1.15%)
Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. (ADR) NSANY 21.67 -0.46 (-2.08%)
Sonic Automotive Inc. SAH 21.23 -0.68 (-3.10%)
Siemens AG SI 74.92 -1.14 (-1.50%)
Sirius Satellite Radio SIRI 5.97 -0.18 (-2.93%)
Toyota Motor Corporation (ADR) TM 91.32 -0.54 (-0.59%)
TRW Automotive Holdings TRW 26.11 -2.29 (-8.06%)
Tower Automotive Inc. TWRAQ.PK 0.145 +0.024 (+19.83%)
United Auto Group Inc. UAG 33.28 -0.20 (-0.60%)
Visteon Corporation VC 8.07 -0.33 (-3.93%)
XM Satellite Radio Hold. XMSR 30.75 -0.87 (-2.75%)

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