The Japanese Motor Show always manages to produce some interesting surprises. Delivery Magazine checks out the latest news.

With ten exhibition halls, plus open-air displays, the 43rd Japanese Motor Show once again proved to be full of ideas, even if some are a bit hard for a Westerner to fathom out.

It’s one of the few shows globally that manages to share car, light-commercial and heavy-truck displays at the same time and in the same venue. That can be a bit of a win for truck enthusiasts, as after having checked out the commercial vehicle displays there is usually still time to have a private dream over some of the more exotic supercars on display.

Some of the Japanese exhibits are purely conceptual, while others do have a future and tend to pop up out of the woodwork as a mainstream model, a couple of years down the track.

Daihatsu may only be a name to remember from the past in the Australian market, but in Japan the brand remains very much alive and well. As always, it specialises in small, odd things, and this year was no Tokyo_Motor_Show_4exception.

The Deca Deca was Daihatsu’s entry into the category it calls “Super Space”. It’s a convertible vehicle, but not in the sense that the roof drops back for open top driving. Convertible in this instance means being able to reconfigure its interior from a two-seat van to a full people mover and not feel like you are making a compromise.

Daihatsu says the design of the Deca Deca was developed “for energetic young people and families who enjoy outdoor pursuits, and also for active seniors.”

So, if you fit one or more of those categories, it must be the right vehicle for your needs. The wide double doors on each side slide back for maximum access. As you lean into the cargo/passenger area it’s an easy and relatively quick task to move seat bases and seat backs in a variety of ways to produce either a passenger people mover or a delivery van.

The FC Deco Deck, on the other hand, has been developed as a zero emissions, next-generation mobility vehicle. Falling under the designation of mini-vehicle, it runs by using a unique metal-free, liquid fuel cell system developed by Daihatsu.

The company showed two types of generators based on the same fuel cell system. These are technologies that open up new possibilities for the energy society of the future. The fuel cell uses a bottle-replacement system to avoid direct contact with the fuel, making the refuelling process simple and safe. The drive unit has a self-contained generator capable of starting up without external power, enabling it to provide power even in an emergency.

Also on display from Daihatsu, and of particular interest to any person with a mobility limitation, was the Tanto Welcome Seat. Yep, some Anglo/Japanese names just don’t work after the translation, but the seat is very clever and will be available in the new Tanto, which is now on sale.

The front seat can swing from forward facing to pivot out at right angles to facilitate easy access and egress, especially handy for someone wanting to swing themselves over onto a wheelchair. Everything happens at the touch of a remote control unit, and as an observer you are left wondering why nobody has thought of this system before.

Tokyo_Motor_Show_10Nissan has products on sale in Japan to which the Australian market simply doesn’t have access. In terms of light trucks it has the Atlas, and for light commercials it has the NV series of the NV200, NV350 van, and also the NV350 Caravan, an inappropriately named people mover.

Most of the NV derivatives look uncommonly like a HiAce. A wide-bodied version was introduced in 2012, and there are various dress-up kits that include alloy wheels, chromed, powered folding door mirrors, waterproof seat covers, a leather-covered steering wheel, and more chromed bits and pieces. There are also specialist bodywork conversions available for use as an ambulance, school bus and other applications.

As an indication of how seriously manufacturers are taking the option of electric vehicles (EVs), Nissan has announced it will be introducing an EV version of the NV200 in 2014, with more EV alternatives following.

There’s also a growing interest in producing the perfect taxi. Although the traditional British Taxi is now owned and manufactured by Chinese manufacturer Geely, Nissan is keen to get into that market segment and has produced a taxi for the North America market, which it now hopes to sell into the Japanese domestic market.

The “Taxi of Tomorrow,” based on Nissan’s NV200, was selected as New York City’s next-generation yellow cab after a stringent two-year evaluation, and went into service with the city’s taxi fleet at the end of 2013. Production of the NV200 “Taxi of Tomorrow” is at Nissan’s Cuernavaca Plant in Mexico.

The Nissan NV200 is sold in more than 40 countries around the world, including Japan, Europe, China, and the United States. Moving up the passenger-seat scale comes the Nissan Civilian bus, which some readers may remember was once available on our market.

Also keen to get into the taxi business is Toyota. The JPN Taxi Concept offers ease of ingress and egress and a comfortable interior space with a body size that allows for outstanding manoeuvrability. The large electrically operated doors and low, flat floor enable passengers to board and exit in comfort, particularly children and seniors. The open, roomy interior has been designed to ensure ease-of-use at all times.

The JPN Taxi Concept uses a new, economical liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) hybrid system with excellent environmental performance optimised for taxi driving patterns.Tokyo_Motor_Show_1

The design features familiar taxi proportions, with an electrically operated sliding door on the passenger-seat side. The display panel and lamps were selected with visibility and safety in mind.

The interior design conveys hospitality, placing priority on universal design principles and modern expression. A large monitor provides information to passengers, such as the route to the destination and taxi fares. Air conditioning and lighting have also been optimised to provide the most comfortable space possible. For the driver, there are specially designed instruments and gauges for taxi use.

Both these taxi alternatives, plus the original Geely British Taxi, could well take on a greater significance for the Australian market, given the impending demise of the Australian car manufacturing industry. A proper, more specifically-designed Taxi for Australia has often been discussed, but, now with three options available, there might be some movement to adopt one or more of the designs.

Hino Motors was obviously comfortable on its home turf, and with a display of six vehicles, including a small sized EV community bus (Electric Vehicle), the company was able to focus on the release of higher safety standards.

Hino was the first light-truck manufacturer to include electronic stability programmes (ESP) in its light-truck range, and there’s more to come. Under the banner of Pre-Crash Safety (PCS), there’s a raft of new inclusions that will be incorporated into the product range of higher weight Hino trucks and buses from the second quarter of 2014.

It’s certainly an upgrade for Japanese truck manufacturers, and from next year we’ll be seeing automatic brake application when the onboard radar systems determine a concern over a reduction of a safe following distance between the truck and the vehicles ahead.

Lane departure warning systems are well enough known on European vehicles, but this is a first for Hino and will be combined with a driver alert system that monitors a driver’s awareness and subsequently initiates the PCS application.

Although buses are not usually something Delivery looks at closely, the Hino Poncho is well worth a mention, if only for offering a full electric-drive unit for inner city operation. Undoubtedly, Hino will move this development into light-truck application in the future, or, in particular, to that of producing a light EV van model.

Tokyo_Motor_Show_9With zero emissions, the Poncho runs silently on its electric motor and benefits from a flat and low floor with full walk-through access. Batteries are mounted under the floor. Still on buses, and Hino also showcased a plug-in hybrid version that uses a system similar to that of the Hino hybrid light-truck range. It can run on EV mode in urban areas and for short distances, or switch to hybrid drive linking to its conventional diesel engine for longer runs.

The Hino people have been thinking a bit laterally on this plug-in hybrid, and the unit on display was fitted out with bodywork for use as a mobile medical centre for community care. At times of local disasters, the unit can supply electrical power to a local area, with its 100-litre fuel tank giving it the opportunity to generate enough electrical energy to light a gymnasium for around 30 hours.

Hino’s 300 Series hybrid has now sold over 11,000 units globally, and the example on display was kitted out with a full vehicle and plant maintenance body for on-site servicing.

Isuzu is justly proud of its 25 years of consecutive market leadership in the Australian market, and at the Tokyo Show its display encompassed some of its heritage, which dates back to when it made its first truck under the Wolseley badge back in 1923.

Isuzu president, Susumu Hosoi, told Delivery the first production of the Wolseley CP truck was actually destroyed by earthquake, resulting in the company building a second new plant.

Cutting edge technology in those early days involved mating a 3.0-litre, petrol-engined, 26 hp motor to a four-speed manual gearbox in a truck that weighed 2,000 kg and could carry 1,500 kg. The 90-year-old classic truck had been fully restored for the Tokyo Motor Show and was the precursor for Isuzu to enter diesel engine manufacturing, some 80 years ago.

Subsequent engine development, which has resulted in the D-Core next-generation diesel engine design, was well illustrated with a selection of different power and torque outputs on display. Ranging from 3.0-10.0 litres, and with power outputs from 110 kW-294 kW, there’s little doubt about the ability of Isuzu to provide a full solution for today’s transport operator.Tokyo_Motor_Show_5

Alternative fuels are also something that Isuzu has been working on, and it continues with its option of CNG (Compressed Natural Gas). Offering 96 kW and 353 Nm, the ELF 4×2 rigid truck featured independent front suspension. Isuzu has already sold 15,000 CNG-fuelled trucks globally, and 2015 sees the extension of the CNG programme into its heavy-duty truck range.

Mitsubishi Fuso demonstrated its power of being an expanding division of Daimler with the announcement of the creation of Daimler Trucks Asia, and the bundling of Mitsubishi Fuso with BharatBenz of India to produce a new truck range for the emerging markets of Asia and Africa.

The company used the Tokyo Motor Show to launch a special version of the Canter Eco Hybrid that had been designed by an all-female team at Fuso.

Dubbed the “Canna”, the concept study for the “Cute Truck” project resulted from Fuso wanting to particularly appeal to women in the vehicle and shipping industry. With this goal in mind, new designs were developed by a project team comprised of nine women. The female workforce at FUSO was subsequently asked to vote on the final design.

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