Happening in Japan

Imagining the Future of Driving at the Tokyo Motor Show

Economy Science Technology

The 2015 Tokyo Motor Show opened on October 29 with 160 companies presenting their competing visions of the future of automobiles. Of the 400 vehicles on display, around a fifth were world premieres.

On October 29, the Tokyo Motor Show opened at Tokyo Big Sight. Automakers from Japan and around the world unveiled the latest technologies, stressing their environmental and safety credentials with fuel-cell vehicles and autonomous driving technologies and playing up the pleasures of driving.

FCVs and Autonomous Driving

The theme of environmental friendliness, prominent the last time the event was held in 2013, continued this year. Several companies presented new FCVs, which have been dubbed the “ultimate green vehicles” for their water-only emissions. Toyota was a trailblazer in this field with the first mass-produced FCV, the Mirai, and at this year’s show it displayed the FCV Plus, a concept car that can be used to power the home and other electric vehicles. Among the other hydrogen pioneers drawing attention, high-end brand Lexus introduced its LF-FC concept car and Honda’s Clarity Fuel Cell made its international debut ahead of a March 2016 market launch.

The Honda Clarity Fuel Cell is set to reach customers in March 2016.

Toyota’s concept car, the FCV Plus, can be used to power other electric vehicles.

Autonomous driving is another area where competition is intensifying, with nonautomotive players like Google also entering the ring. Nissan exhibited its IDS Concept vehicle as a vision of the cars people will be using from 2020 onward. The onboard artificial intelligence studies the driver’s habits in areas like acceleration and deceleration timing, mimicking them when the vehicle is put into self-piloted mode. Mitsubishi also presented an autonomous drive concept sport utility vehicle, while Fuji Heavy Industries displayed a Subaru concept car featuring its proprietary driver assistance system, Eyesight.

Nissan’s IDS Concept is a vision of the car of 2020.

The Joy of Driving

Meanwhile, a number of sports cars aimed to capture the sheer pleasure of driving. Mazda unveiled the RX-Vision concept car, powered by a rotary engine the company last manufactured in 2012. Honda’s high-end arm Acura also harked back to past times with its new NSX, a series whose production ceased in 2005. Toyota, meanwhile, took a different tack with its distinctly cute baby sports car concept the S-FR. There were 11 sports cars on display from Japan’s big eight auto manufacturers, up from just 6 in 2013.

The Toyota S-FR concept car.

A Declining Market

A total of 160 companies from 11 countries participated in the Tokyo Motor Show this year, down from 178 companies from 12 countries in 2013. Notable absentees this year included supercar makers Ferrari and Lamborghini and US companies like General Motors. Once considered one of the world’s leading motor shows alongside Detroit, the TMS is starting to decline as Japan’s driving population ages and its young people lose interest in cars. International automakers are placing increasing weight on shows in China and other burgeoning markets. Despite this, the Tokyo exhibition remains one to watch for the latest developments from Japan’s globally active automakers.

(Originally written in Japanese and published on October 31, 2015. Banner photo: Mazda’s RX-Vision aims to reboot the rotary-engine-powered vehicle.)

Mitsubishi cars Tokyo Motor Show Nissan Honda Toyota Lexus Subaru fuel cell vehicles sports cars automobile