Tokyo Motor Show 2007. Can eco-cars save automakers?
10, 23. 2007
The 40th Tokyo Motor Show will open for a 17-day run from Oct. 26 through Nov. 11, 2007 at Makuhari Messe in Chiba City. About 240 Japanese and foreign carmakers and parts makers, including Toyota, Nissan and Honda, will display 520 different vehicles at the show. According to the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association, the organizer of the show, 71 of the vehicles to be displayed are those that will be unveiled for the first time in the world. The forthcoming Tokyo Motor Show seems to be a follow-up to the Frankfurt Motor Show, where the emphasis was placed on the technology to protect the environment with the display of such environmentally friendly cars as diesel-engine cars, hybrid cars and fuel-battery cars. In addition to the eco-cars, Toyota and Nissan will show their concept cars to attract young people with the aim of stimulating the sluggish auto market. It is wondered, however, if the concept cars for young people and eco-cars would really save the carmakers from their current stagnant business.
"Environment" and "young people" are the keywords
Unique electric car "PIVO2" to be displayed by Nissan
The spectacular Tokyo Motor Show will open on Oct. 26. Judging from the vehicles to be displayed, it seems that "environment" and "young people" are the keywords.
Toyota is ready to make its full efforts to grapple with the environment problems. It is needless to say the company will push the sales of hybrid cars. The company will show its full consideration for the protection of environment by, for example, increasing the number of trips by its special "Toyota Long Pass Express" trains to transport parts to its assembly plants for the purpose of reducing the transportation by pollution-causing trucks. An individual investor commented about Toyota's way of coping with problems by saying, "It is the skill..., or strength of Toyota to leave nothing undone."
Besides the Lexus hybrid cars, it will also exhibit the "1/X" (one over x) car which is made lighter in weight by the use of the carbon-fiber reinforced plastic, and the RiN model car produced with the theme of health.
Nissan will display the PIVO2 car, which is capable of moving sideways with a rotating body, and the sour-seat small convertible "R. D/B. X" designed for young people. Honda's PUYO has a wavy body with lots of curves made possible by the use of a silicon material so that it has the body that gives the "sense of something alive". Its CR-Z is a small hybrid sports car that is eco-oriented.
Mazda's concept car is the "Taiki" (atmosphere). Its sales point is the "visible air dynamic". The mini van "Premacy" is a hybrid car that can run on both hydrogen and gasoline. The Mitsubishi iMiEV Sport will be unveiled together with the Mitsubishi Concept-ZT equipped with clean diesel engine for the first time in the world.
Soaring crude oil prices and transportation cost may be a factor of "headwind"
The auto industry which has so far been going smoothly is now said to be overshadowed. According to the "industrial weather map" of 30 major industries forecast for October through December of 2007 by the Nihon Keizai Shimbun daily, the auto industry is down graded by one rank from "a little sun shine" to "cloudy". The industry was reported to be enjoying "smooth sales abroad although the sales were sluggish at home" for the July-September quarter. Its business in the United States, however, became unpredictable because of the possibility of a slow-down as a result of the subprime shock.
"The export rise in 2006 stemmed from the increased demand for small cars overseas. Japanese auto plants in foreign countries were not ready to meet the demand. So the cars had to be shipped out from Japan," explained an observer at the automobile industry. He noted that the demand in the United States and Europe is becoming sluggish. "An expansion is expected only in Asia and Russia," he added.
Honda is to introduce the hybrid car Civic in India. The company is expected to start selling the car in that country in or after 2008 by appealing its advanced efforts to cope with the environmental issues with the aim of expanding its market share in India. In the meantime, Mazda announced that it would set up a small car manufacturing plant in Thailand jointly with Ford. Suzuki has revealed that its unit in India, Multi Suzuki India, will establish a company to produce diesel engine control parts in a joint venture with the electronic parts maker Magneti Marelli Powertrain, which is a subsidiary of Fiat of Italy. The observer at the automobile industry noted that Asia is now entering the age of motorization. "The income is going up in Asian countries and eco-cars are gaining popularity although these cars are expensive," he said.
The carmakers are accelerating their local production and local sales abroad. If they advance into foreign countries all at one time, they will face severer competition among themselves. Because of rising shipping cost, the import costs for steel and other materials and the export costs for completed cars are soaring. Moreover, if the value of the yen keeps going up, the risk of currency exchange can not be overlooked. Though Japanese-made cars are known for good mileage, "the headwind may get too powerful to resist if the crude oil prices increase any further," said an economist at a major securities company.