Japanese carmakers will be casting a wide net at the Tokyo Motor Show next week as they try to lure consumers back to the sputtering home market, with showpieces ranging from cute, bubbly concepts to pure, mean muscle machines.
From market leader Toyota Motor Corp to second-tier Mazda Motor Corp, Japan's automakers will strut out cars coming to market soon and showcase futuristic ideas for automobiles such as talking robots to keep drivers entertained and alert.
More so than at the other international auto shows, Japanese carmakers have used the one in Tokyo to tell audiences what safety and technological features they envisage down the road, while trying to cement their image as environmental front-runners.
Top executives from foreign rivals including Volkswagen AG, Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz and BMW AG -- Japan's top import brands -- will also be in town to hail their latest products for the world's third-largest auto market.
The biennial event, held in Chiba, just outside Tokyo, opens to the media next Wednesday and to the public on October 27.
Toyota's stand will be a hodgepodge of concepts, from the i-REAL one-seater that can be driven on the sidewalk like a wheelchair or on roads at high speeds, to the green 1/X flex-fuel plug-in hybrid car.
Nissan Motor Co will have a sequel to its egg-shaped, revolving-cabin PIVO electric car, this time with a robotic agent that reads facial expressions. In a chirpy, friendly voice, the dome-shaped robot head perched in the cockpit warns drivers if they appear to be dozing off, or tries to lighten the mood when they seem upset.
Research shows that a lot of accidents happen when the driver is angry, Nissan engineer Masahiko Tabe said.
In a similar vein, Toyota's RiN concept is designed to calm the mind, evoking nature with its grass-like carpeting, green-tinted windows and posture-correcting seats. Engineers said it was one answer to President Katsuaki Watanabe's dream of creating a car that makes drivers healthy.
For more tangible safety advances, Honda Motor Co came up with the Puyo, a seamless, gel-coated four-wheeled bubble that leaves pedestrians unharmed in a light collision.
BACK TO BASICS
Wacky concepts may attract a broader audience, but the show will also have eye candy for true motorheads.
After a carefully orchestrated hype-fest, Nissan Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn will take the wraps off the remodeled GT-R sports car on October 24.
The latest version of the cult classic, to be launched globally for the first time, was last revamped in 1999 and will sell for around 7.8 million yen ($66,470) in Japan.
Honda shows off the CR-Z, a sporty gasoline-electric hybrid that will be the basis for a future production model.
For the first time, audiences in Japan will see Toyota's 400-horsepower FT-HS hybrid sports concept, which packs a 3.5-litre V6 engine, and the powerful Lexus LF-A sports coupe.
Fans of Mazda's recent flow-themed design concepts will see a culmination of the series in the aerodynamic, head-turning Taiki two-seater sports car.
At the other end of the spectrum, Mazda will showcase the Premacy Hydrogen RE Hybrid, a minivan that twins a hydrogen rotary engine with an electric motor and emits nothing but water. It hopes to test-lease the vehicle next year.
Mitsubishi Motors Corp will bring out the all-electric i MiEV Sport, featuring in-wheel motors and a high-capacity lithium-ion battery. Subaru maker Fuji Heavy unveils the G4e Concept, also an electric car.