2007 Tokyo Motor Show Concepts
6 Images

2007 Tokyo Motor Show

Nissan PIVO2

Consider the Nissan PIVO2 on display here. It’s an electric three-seat “city commute” vehicle (as opposed to a “Hollywood Freeway commute” vehicle) that is essentially a glass-and-metal bubble atop four small wheels.

Among the features: When you need to back up, rather than shifting into reverse, looking over your shoulder and inching into oncoming traffic, you wait while the cabin rotates 180 degrees and then drive straight ahead.

Hate to parallel park? Pull up next to that choice-but-tight space, rotate the cabin and all four wheels 90 degrees and proceed just as if you were pulling into your garage.

--Martin Zimmerman (EPA/Franck Robichon)
Honda Puyo

Honda’s kawaii entry is the Puyo, a boxy greenhouse coated in a light-emitting gel that feels spongy. Honda executives told show goers that “the pet-like appearance makes people want to touch it” -- which explains the name, puyo being a word the Japanese use when poking something soft, like a chubby baby.

Like the PIVO2, the Puyo features a vehicle rotation capability that is illustrated in the brochure with a picture of what appears to be -- yes -- the Disneyland teacup ride.

--Martin Zimmerman (EPA/Franck Robichon)
Honda CR-Z

On a more serious note, as at most recent auto shows around the warming globe, many of the concept cars here are intended to promote the automakers’ efforts to produce vehicles that get better mileage and are less destructive to the environment.

Honda, for instance, is exhibiting the CR-Z, a truly hot-looking gasoline-electric sports car concept that the company apparently hopes will do for its hybrid offerings what Al Gore Jr. did for the Toyota Prius: give it a bit of bad boy mystique.

Honda said it fully intended to build the CR-Z. Someday.

--Martin Zimmerman (EPA/Franck Robichon)
Nissan Intima

Several automakers are rolling out vehicles -- some conceptual, some real -- that could be described as “elderly mobility.” This is a big issue in Japan, where the population is not only shrinking but also aging rapidly. Tokyo, famous for its trendy fashions and futuristic neon building-scapes, is expected to have one of the oldest populations among the world’s metropolises within 15 years.

Those demographic changes, in addition to falling auto sales here, are spurring car companies to introduce features that appeal to older folks. One popular option is the rotating seat, which makes it easier to get in and out of a car. Nissan, in its Intima sedan, added reverse-opening “suicide doors,” making entry and exit even smoother.

--Martin Zimmerman (EPA/Franck Robichon)
Mitsuoka Orochi

For the somewhat younger at heart, Mitsuoka unveiled the latest version of its Orochi supercar, a hand-built beast that costs about 12 million yen, or about $105,000. Reminiscent in spirit of the small-batch supercar makers in Southern California such as Saleen, Mitsuoka describes itself as “a small factory with a big dream.”

Orochi loosely translates as “big snake,” and the car is named after Yamata-no-orochi, a legendary dragon-like serpent. (Associated Press)
Mazda Taiki

Taiki, which in Japanese means atmosphere, uses the concept of airflow as a style element. Swoopy lines drape the car’s sides, and a the rear wheels are worn catamaran-like away from the car’s body, allowing air to flow between the chassis and the wheels. Inside, color and style are used to illustrate calm and storm, day and night.

--Tara Weingarten (Photo by Tom Caltabiano)