Tokyo Motor Show accents smaller cars
TOKYO — The showing by carmakers of new light automobiles and extremely small prototype models at the Tokyo Motor Show reflects the growing popularity of such cars in the domestic car market.
The increasing popularity of small cars, including those with an engine displacement of 660cc (cubic centimeters), is due to the sharp improvement in their safety and user-friendliness as car manufacturers seek to enable elderly people to drive at ease, according to analysts.
Elderly people account for about 30 percent of those who drive 660cc vehicles in this country.
The carmakers have also unveiled a number of two-seaters, a size smaller than 660cc cars.
All this seems to indicate a growing demand for small vehicles that can be driven flexibly, such as cars with a small turning radius.
This year's Tokyo Motor Show opened Friday.
Today, 660cc vehicles account for about 40 percent of domestic new car sales, meaning the light-car market is the main battleground for domestic auto sales.
Five automakers are displaying such small vehicles, including prototypes, at this year's motor show, compared with three car manufacturers that did so in the 2011 show.
For example, Daihatsu Motor Co. is displaying a 660cc prototype called "Deca Deca." The model is 185 centimeters high (aout six feet), about 10 centimeters higher than the highest model with a similar engine displacement in the past.
One of Deca Deca's salient features is its interior roominess. The back doors of this model are rear-hinged, a feature that gives a sense of greater openness.
Suzuki Motor Corp. is displaying the 660cc Alto Eco, which will be released on Dec. 18.
Its main selling point is fuel efficiency, said to be the highest of any gasoline-powered car at 35 kilometers (about 21 miles) per liter of gasoline. Another selling point is the height of the driver's seat, which is only 31.5 centimeters from the ground, making it easier for drivers to enter and exit the car.
Honda Motor Co. is showing a new 660cc van, the N-WGN, which was released Friday.
The model is Honda's first light model equipped with an automatic braking system, which engages if the vehicle is about to collide with a car in front at speeds of 30 kph or less.
The system was installed mainly to alleviate concerns of elderly drivers.
The automakers are also enthusiastically displaying ultra-minicars, a new concept.
In January this year, the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry started a certification scheme to allow ultra-minicars to run on public roads, expecting that the cars' popularity will grow.
Ultra-minicars are 20 centimeters to 60 centimeters narrower than minicars. Automakers are promoting the convenience of ultra-minis for errands in urban areas such as going to hospitals and shopping.
Honda's MC-beta model ultra-mini can run 80 kilometers on a single battery recharge, 20 kilometers farther than past prototypes.
Toyota Motor Corp. is displaying an ultra-minicar model, i-Road, which has two front wheels and one rear wheel.
(c) 2013, The Yomiuri Shimbun.