The Japanese car industry is doing better than beefier, and what better way to experience this, than at the Tokyo Motor Show. For 2017, the craziness continues…wild concepts, emotion expressing cars, boxy kei-jidosha (the famous k-class) cars - all this is still there, but with a new underlying message to it all - the future is electric, and the future is connected. Organised by The Japanese Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (JAMA) every two years, the Tokyo Motor Show is renowned worldwide as the place where technology meets the contemporary.
There is, of course, a feeling of earnestness at the show - go hybrid, go electric or go hydrogen; you cannot escape the feeling that the world’s largest automakers are looking at alternatives to the internal combustion engine. A new human touch is also visible - Didier Leroy, Toyota’s Executive Vice-President spoke of how cars have to learn to interact with each other and cars also have to give everybody the ultimate freedom - mobility, even if some people cannot drive due to various reasons. So when the Olympics happen in Japan in 2020, Toyota is its official partner. Toyota is also tying up with the Paralympic Association - this way even those with disabilities may be able to drive in the future using autonomous cars. Yes, autonomous cars is the buzzword at this year’s Tokyo Motor Show - the ability of vehicles to self-drive. Although in India this dream could be a couple of decades away, thanks to our multi-challenge road members, in places like Japan they are almost there. Almost.
While one saw Japanese concepts and electric vehicles out there in full force, not to be missed were the large number of European car manufacturers. Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, Volvo, Volkswagen, Citroen, Peugeot were all present in significant numbers and surprisingly enough, garnered a lot of attention. Companies like Lexus had a large area of their own and were showing off several new models, including the full-size Lexus LX570 petrol, which will make its way to India in the next couple of months.
Honda CEO Takahiro Hachigo strongly emphasised the company’s uniqueness in manufacturing everything from lawn mowers to business jets and said the company was on a huge growth trajectory. In the 2-wheeler segment, the company had achieved 100-million units of cumulative production for the Super Cub series of motorcycles and new models like the 125cc Super Cub were being introduced.
On the other end of the spectrum, the flagship Gold Wing Tourer was also being beefed up with a new model. On the car's front, he mentioned about the new Civic which was being introduced in Japan soon, but what was significant for India were the new Accord and CR-V models. The new CR-V will be a seven seater and what he did not say but is definitely happening is that the CR-V for India will have a diesel engine this time around. Interestingly, a large number of traditional models in Japan are getting the Hybrid treatment, and a number of electric cars are also coming in soon.
The Tokyo Motor Show 2017 is all about the eccentric, the practical and overall technology. The show is definitely a trendsetter in the fact that it shows the future - connected cities, connected cars and bringing mobility to all. While automakers wilfully or resentfully move towards electric mobility in some form or the other, one thing is amply clear - the future is autonomous driving, the future is electric mobility. While there are many variations on the theme, the slogan of TMS 2017 - Beyond the Motor probably aptly sums it up.
Author: Ranojoy Mukerji is an automotive writer, analyst and hedonist with over 20 years of experience in motoring journalism. He is also a passionate car collector and his hobbies include fine single malt whiskies and cigars.