If the Tokyo Motor Show excels at one thing, it is weird concept cars. Whereas other international motor shows such as Geneva, Frankfurt, and Detroit have the big headline debuts of important consumer models and flashy supercars, the Tokyo Motor Show, which happens every second year, has had a shift towards mobility and fun concepts. These concepts aren’t designed to be the next best seller but rather to draw in crowds for a bit of fun.
This year marked a record turnout to the motor show with over 1.3 million people attending over the course of the two weeks it was on. While audience numbers were up, exhibitor numbers were down with an obvious lack of foreign brands from the show floors. To make up for this, the Japanese manufactures upped their game and brought out some uniquely Japanese concepts that signal where the Japanese auto industry sees itself going in the future. Cute, small, autonomous mobility vehicles.
With that in mind, the recurring theme of mobility and electrification was seen throughout the three halls of the Tokyo Big Sight. So here are some of the coolest, quirkiest, and most interesting concept cars from the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show.
Suzuki Waku Sports
Carrying on their tradition of small cars, the Waku Sports is a body changing plug-in hybrid compact car. Where the market is moving towards electrification and SUVs, Suzuki have adapted the idea of a compact coupe and added some ‘waku waku’ or excitement. At the touch of a button it transforms from a coupe into a wagon as well as changing the front grille.
The Suzuki stand captured the spirit of Tokyo Motor Shows of old; fun and weird concept cars. ‘Hanare’ roughly translates to detached cabin and that’s exactly what Suzuki’s vision of an autonomous lounge mobility electric vehicle would look like in the future. What’s great about these Suzuki concepts are the cute harmless designs. So many of the other concepts at Tokyo were over styled with sharp aggressive lines. This pair of Suzuki concepts looked like your friendly robot friends from the future.
Daihatsu Waku Waku
Waku waku seemed to be the key phrase as this year’s Tokyo Motor Show. Not only was it the whole ‘ethos’ for Suzuki, small car rival Daihatsu went out and named one of their concepts after the Japanese word for excitement. Resembling some kind of rugged crossover, should the Waku Waku enter production it’ll most likely end up a lifestyle kei car.
This is what Daihatsu sees the future of kei trucks will look like. Like the current crop of kei trucks the TsumuTsumu is simple, utilitarian, and cute. The biggest change is the motor – gone is the 660cc three-cylinder engine used by current kei trucks and in its place is an electric motor powered by batteries. Oh, and it has a drone in the back. An optional extra I’m sure.
A non-kei car from Daihatsu, the WaiWai is a mini minivan. There’s a lot of Fiat 500L about it; but unlike the Fiat 500L, it has not one but two fabric sunroofs for that extra open top feeling. Because where’s the fun of having your sunroof open when your backseat passengers can’t bask under the same sunlight? This six-seater EV minivan isn’t slated for production; but come on Daihatsu, the world needs a cute funky twin fabric roof minivan.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show was something from Toyota. Little was said about the e-Racer other than it being a concept to show e-mobility can be “fun”. The tandem two-seater open air, erm car/racer/vehicle, proves Toyota is doing everything they can to shave off their conservative image. This was the closest thing to a ‘sports car’ we saw from the Tokyo Motor Show. Glad to see there’s at least one Japanese manufacturer who hasn’t forgotten the word ‘fun’.
Another day, another electric crossover concept. The Ariya is a development on the IMx Concept we saw earlier this year and goes towards a near production ready phase. It’s a handsome looking car and banks on Nissan’s know-how on EVs. The Ariya sits on a new electric platform that’ll be the base for future electric products as well as previewing Nissan’s design direction. Following a year of scandal and dwindling sales, expect to see a production version of the Ariya sometime next year among a bombardment of new models from Nissan in 2020.
Nissan’s Intelligent Mobility movement has been getting people into zero emissions vehicles and the IMk is the latest addition to this. I’ve been a supporter of the idea of an electric kei car for a while. The Mitsubishi i-MiEV was a dud because it was released a decade too early. Battery technology has improved significantly since then, and I can see the benefit of a 100-mile range kei car strictly for urban use. Most kei cars are used predominantly in cities and towns anyway, so it’s the obvious next step for this segment.
A bright blue buggy from Mitsubishi was just the right amount of ‘different’ we needed at the Tokyo Motor Show. Mitsubishi is going through a bit of a brand resurgence at the moment focusing on electrification and crossovers. At the moment, many of their new ideas are concepts while their current lineup of production cars seems somewhat stale. But if the MITech is anything to go by, then Mitsubishi’s alliance with Nissan has a promising emission free future.
Mitsubishi Super Height K-Wagon
A kei car with a funky name? Yes please. Other than the silly name, it’s pretty much business as usual for a kei car with dimensions no larger than 11 feet long and 5 feet wide, though I imagine it’ll be quite tall considering its name. Should it enter production, it’ll most likely use a gas powered 660cc three cylinder engine producing no more than 64hp as per kei car regulations.
Ken Saito is a Guest Writer specializing in Automobiles who resides in Japan. With a B.A. majoring in Media Studies with minors in Asian Studies and History from Victoria University in New Zealand, Ken has contributed to motoring websites like DriveLive New Zealand, CarsOfTokyo (Japan), Jalopnik (USA) and Petrolicious (USA), as well as magazines like Lords Magazine (France) and Automobile (USA).
Ken may be one of the few people to have been ‘canyon carving’ in a Cadillac SUV against a Ferrari F40…