Green cars rule Tokyo Motor Show, but eyes turns to China
Green cars enjoy the limelight at Tokyo Motor Show. But car makers – including Japan's – are increasingly looking to China, India, and other nations with greater growth potential. Could this new focus curb green cars' innovation?
In Pictures LA Auto Show 2011
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The showcase for Japan's pillar auto industry was holding its preview for media on Wednesday ahead of opening to the public on Saturday.
Plug-in hybrids and electric cars are centerstage at the Tokyo Motor Show — reflecting both how green cars are growing in popularity and the low profile of foreign automakers at the event.
The show been scaling back in recent years because of the waning importance of Japan as an auto market. Car makers — including Japan's — are increasingly looking to China, India and other nations with greater growth potential.
Ford Motor Co. of the U.S. skipped the show, and General Motors Co. had only a tiny corner booth. Just a handful of European makers such as BMW with a chance at wooing rich Japanese buyers had full-scale booths.
Japanese automakers have had a tough few years due to the strong yen, image problems from Toyota's massive recalls and the large production disruptions from the March disasters in northeastern Japan. But green technology remains a strong selling point for car makers such as Toyota Motor Corp. which pioneered broad consumer acceptance of gasoline-electric hybrid cars with its hit Prius.
Honda Motor Co. said it will start selling an electric version of its Fit subcompact in the U.S. and Japan by the middle of next year. It showed concept cars such as the AC-X plug-in hybrid, EV-STER electric roadster convertible and a tiny electric car called Micro Commuter
"We will continue to offer products with an edge," said Honda President Takanobu Ito before drinking orange juice poured by Honda's Asimo robot, which recently has gained more nimble human-like fingers.
Honda showed a portable battery that people could carry around and put not only in their electric cars and plug-ins but also in small electric scooters.
Nissan Motor Co. had an updated version of its futuristic-looking electric car called Pivo 3, which can drive itself, find parking spaces and swerve around in almost a complete circle.