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What to Look For at the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show

Updated: Our guide to the biennial event’s biggest unveilings -- and absences.

by on Nov.29, 2011

The 2011 Tokyo Motor Show opened its doors to thousands of media with some significant news coming out of the biennial event – even though Detroit’s Big Three and a number of other foreign makers decided to sit on the sidelines this time ‘round.

The Tokyo Motor Show has a history of revealing some wild, weird and wacky concept vehicles and that’s expected to continue this year but the emphasis has been shifting to production models – as at other global auto shows.  The concepts that will be on display will be more likely, this year, to hint at technology that very well could be brought to production in the not-too-distant future.

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The 2009 Tokyo Motor Show was widely considered a dud, and with so many makers boycotting the 2011 event the eyes of the industry will be looking closely to see if organizers have been able to regain at least some momentum.  Otherwise, this could be the last truly global auto show for Tokyo – especially with the motor shows in Beijing and Shanghai becoming increasingly large and important every year.

So, what might you find if you could mingle with the media this week at the Tokyo Big Sight convention center? Here’s our now-updated guide to some of the most significant previews.

VW's Cross Coupe Concept.

Audi. The Volkswagen luxury subsidiary was expected to show off the next-gen TT, but that apparently won’t happen until next spring, in Geneva.  Instead, it previewed the new A1 Sportback.

BMW. The Bavarians staged the launch of the new 5-Series Hybrid as well as Japanese versions of the maker’s diesels — and the Japanese unveiling of the new i3 and i8 battery cars.

Daihatsu. We were presented with some of the more wacky offerings for 2011, including the rolling large screen TV-based FC ShoCase. There’ll be a new Pico microcar and the Daihatsu D-X will be an aggressively styled sports car featuring a turbo-direct injection 2-cylinder engine.

Subaru will show the production version - finally! - of its BRZ sports car.

Honda. Japan’s third-largest maker revealed an assortment of of concept cars and motorcycles and even home power generation products.  Attention largely focused on the EV-Ster battery sports car concept, as well as the tiny AC-X Plug-in Hybrid. But there were a mix of small battery models, as well as a high-performance battery race bike.

Honda. Sigh, no news about the long-overdue Acura NSX replacement — though hints of a preview to come in Detroit next January.  Also absent: the eagerly-awaited turbo version of the current CR-Z hybrid.  But a new version of the ASIMO robot made a surprise appearance, pouring coffee for CEO Takanobu Ito.

Mazda. One of the small maker’s more interesting announcements was the introduction of the i-ELOOP Regenerative Braking System, which uses a supercapacitor, rather than a battery and reportedly can improve fuel economy by up to 10%. It debuted under the skin of the newest Mazda design study, the Takerei.

A race car version of Subaru's new BRZ.

Mazda. Also among the missing in (in-)action column: the next-generation Mazda6.

Mitsubishi. Not long ago given little chance to survive Mitsubishi has been regaining traction and shifting focus to green machines. For Tokyo we saw a 70 mpg version of the Mirage as well as a concept version of a new plug-in hybrid expected to soon reach production, the PX MiEV Concept II.

Nissan. The number two Japanese maker’s design and engineering operations were clearly busy preparing for Tokyo.  CEO Carlos Ghosn revealed the latest in the Pivo series, the Pivo3, now capable of autonomous driving, along with the ESFLOW electric sports car, the Townpod battery commuter vehicle, the big NV350 Caravan people mover — and the Juke NISMO, a performance version of the maker’s small crossover.

The wacky Suzuki Q-Concept.

Subaru. The maker, better known for rugged, AWD vehicles, finally revealed the production version of its long-awaited BRZ, the Miata-fighter it developed in a partnership with Toyota. It also showed us the Advanced Tourer Concept and two versions of the next-generation Impreza, the 5-door Sport and 4-door G4.

Suzuki. Maintaining its focus on the low end of the market, Suzuki weighed in with three new battery-powered City Car concepts — including the retro-futuristic Regina and wacky Q-Concept.

Toyota. The maker unveiled the 86 sports car, which will also be known as the GT-86 in Europe and, in the U.S. will be sold through the Scion brand as the FR-S. The car was developed in a joint venture with Subaru.

Honda's latest ASIMO robot even served coffee.

Toyota. The maker also put plenty of emphasis on advanced technology, with Toyota unveiling an autonomous, or self-driving, version of the Prius hybrid.  And it had an assortment of green concepts, including the battery-electric FT-EV III and a fuel-cell vehicle, the FCV-R.  If sources prove accurate we may soon see production versions.

Volkswagen. One of the few foreign makers with a significant Tokyo presence, VW had a pair of offerings on display, including the production Passat AllTrack, a wagon that takes on some more SUV-like characteristics — think Subaru Outback — as well as the very downsized Cross Coupe Concept.

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