Reportage: Japan Mobility Show 2023
Island solution 2.0
The Tokyo Motor Show was once one of the most important car shows in the world. But since the late 1990s, things have not been going steadily downhill just because of the emerging superpower China. The trade fair is now trying to reinvent itself as a mobility event. But when it comes to electromobility, the Japanese market is lagging behind – but not for long.
Even though the Tokyo Motor Show has now become the Japanese mobility window of the modern era, the location is the same as before. The Tokyo Big Sight exhibition center shines like it once did in the warm October sun and even at second glance it looks like it did at the last major event four years ago. The home players are as strong as usual with brands like Toyota, Mazda, Nissan and Mitsubishi and the Europeans have largely said goodbye to the Japanese trade fair. Not so BMW, because the Bavarians of Munich have always had a anything but secret passion for the Japanese market and especially the Tokyo agglomeration of 30 million people. This time there is a surprisingly big appearance with the new BMW iX2 / X2, which is apparently also being honored by the Japanese brands. BMW CEO Oliver Zipse is presenting the study of the new class, which will come onto the market in 2025, in the turbulent trend city for the first time in Asia. Also in Japan exclusively electric. But the electric drive isn’t far off on the island. There are combustion engines and countless hybrids on the roads. Even in the modern districts of Roppongi, Shibuya or Minato, electric models are just as rare as charging stations. However, the new Mercedes AMG C63, which is celebrating its regional trade fair premiere in Tokyo, would also be happy about this.
The big wheel at the Japan Mobility Show is once again turning Toyota with its luxury offshoot Lexus. The big surprise: the legendary Toyota Land Cruiser is powered up. 5.15 meters long, the Land Cruiser Se offers space for up to seven people and should also be able to impress off-road – and for the first time electrically. A little further away from the start of series production, the EPU Concept pick-up study with a double cabin and a large loading area appears to attract leisure fans as well as business people. They should also like the 3.39 meter long Daihatsu Uniform Truck, which can be fitted with different bodies in just a few minutes and is then ready for anything.
The Mazda Iconic SP sports car study is even cooler, powered by an electric drive with a Wankel engine as a generator. The Japanese manufacturer only recently brought this drive into series production on its Mazda MX-30 e-Skyactiv R-EV. With its centrally located rotary piston engine, the Iconic SP is in the league of an MX-5, because the sports coupé of the future is just 4.18 meters long. Weighing 1,450 kilograms, the electric athlete is powered by a 272 kW / 370 hp electric motor. If you prefer the non-electric original: Mazda is also presenting the subtle facelift of its open two-seater MX-5 at the Japan Mobility Show. There are slight design retouches – there is no new drive. There is a choice of fabric roof or folding roof, as well as petrol engines with 132 or 184 hp. An electric drive for the small two-seater? The Japanese remain silent about this.
However, the award for the most spectacular sports car at the Japan Mobility Show goes to the Toyota FT-Se, which is closely related to the FT-3e crossover – also electrically powered. This also applies to the Honda Prologue, because the e-crossover is scheduled to celebrate its public premiere next year. The technology comes from cooperation with General Motors and so the Prologue runs on the Americans’ Ultium platform, which it shares with the Chevrolet Blazer, for example. The top model is a 288 hp all-wheel drive vehicle with an electric range of almost 500 kilometers.
But Toyota’s Land Cruiser isn’t the only classic to be powered up. With its prospect of an electric MPV off-road vehicle, Mitsubishi certainly evokes subtle memories of the legendary Pajero. Dreaming is simply part of a trade fair like this. The Nissan Hyper Tourer van study is even more crazy. In Asia, luxury large vans are more popular than ever in most countries, but with a delay these are now also becoming electric. When the Hyper Tourer hits the road, it should not only offer all-wheel drive, autonomous driving functions and a luxurious interior, while display surfaces at the front not only look good, but also represent a means of communication with the surroundings. But Nissan is not only daring to introduce the electric van of the future at the mobility show, but also the crossover called Hyper Urban – unfortunately also only as a future study.
That’s one of the problems at Japan’s most important motor show – with a few exceptions, you’re largely in vain looking for real innovations that will soon hit the streets. This also applies to the sedan study of the electric Lexus LF-ZC, which is scheduled to go into series production in 2026. The 5.30 meter long Lexus LF-ZL, on the other hand, makes a big appearance in the luxury segment and offers a visionary look at the Japanese’s upcoming luxury models. The visionary new edition of the Daihatsu Copen (front engine / rear-wheel drive) or the also open Daihatsu Osanpo – also electric – are much smaller. If you like something sportier, the Sport Mobility Concept from Subaru is the right choice. Remaining small, boxy and with maximum use of space: the unique kei cars such as a Suzuki Spacia Custom or the Honda CI-MEV as a new edition of an Asian Smart Fortwo – electric. Just like the Daihatsu me:MO. However, once again on Japanese soil, Chinese manufacturers do not play a major role at the Big Sight exhibition center, where only market leader BYD has a notable presence.