Fun-driving hybrids take Tokyo Motor Show spotlight
TOKYO (Nikkei) -- Japanese automakers grappling with young consumers uninterested in owning cars think they might have found the answer in high-performance hybrids that run just like their gas-guzzling cousins. And the companies are taking the wraps off their latest inventions at the Tokyo Motor Show that kicked off Wednesday.
Honda Motor unveiled a concept model of the NSX hybrid sports car to debut in 2015. "We will open a new era with the next-generation supercar that's fun to drive and has high environmental performance," said President Takanobu Ito.
Honda plans to first release the new NSX in North America, and gradually expand it to other markets.
Japanese automakers are ahead of foreign rivals in hybrid technologies that help improve fuel economy. But Honda believes that in order to make hybrids more widespread, driving performance needs to be equal to that of a gasoline-powered vehicle.
The automaker equipped the new hybrid sport car with a control system that enables stable turning even at high speeds. The driving feel will be on a par with a supercar with an engine displacement of more than 3 liters, according to Honda, although it has not revealed which engine will be in the hybrid NSX.
Mitsubishi Motors showcased a large sport utility vehicle plug-in hybrid as a successor to the Pajero SUV. Although the SUV has a displacement of 3 liters, the company aims to achieve a fuel economy of 15km per liter in hybrid mode.
Plug-in hybrids combine the strength of an electric vehicle and a hybrid car in that they emit little global-warming gases but can also achieve the same drivability as a gasoline-powered car.
With rising gasoline prices weighing on sales of gas-guzzling large SUVs, Mitsubishi Motors has positioned plug-in hybrids as the core of its restructuring efforts. "We aim to be a leading company in electric automobiles," says President Osamu Masuko.
Nissan Motor revealed the BladeGlider three-passenger electric vehicle, which looks like a triangle from above and boasts better aerodynamics. The driver can maneuver the vehicle like a glider.
With domestic new-car sales having declined 30% since 1991, automakers believe spurring demand among young consumers is the key to a market revival.