The Tokyo Motor Show opened to the press Wednesday with automakers promoting electric cars, reflecting the significant shift in the industry amid tighter global regulations, and interactions between drivers and vehicles equipped with artificial intelligence technologies.
The 45th motor show, which will be open to the public from Saturday through Nov. 5 at Tokyo Big Sight, will give visitors a first look at more than 70 new vehicles being launched at the biennial event.
A total of 153 companies and organizations from 10 countries are exhibiting their products and services, as automakers are rushing to develop next-generation vehicles to meet stricter emissions standards.
The British and French governments have said they will ban sales of gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles by 2040. China is also tightening regulations to encourage the adoption of electric cars.
Nissan Motor Co., a leading EV maker, unveiled its Leaf Nismo Concept car, a variant of its new Leaf electric vehicle developed in conjunction with the company's motorsports division. Nissan's Leaf is currently the best-selling electric car in the world.
The carmaker also announced that it will join the all-electric Formula E championship starting in 2018 as the first Japanese automotive brand.
Nissan has been hit by an improper inspection scandal recently that has led the company to file for a massive domestic recall of around 1.2 million vehicles. On Wednesday, the company filed for an additional recall of 38,650 cars of 30 models produced in Japan between February and October that require re-inspection.
Honda Motor Co. CEO Takahiro Hachigo announced that the company is planning to launch electric cars in Japan in 2020. "EV models will be sold in Japan...following their introduction in Europe," Hachigo said at a press briefing.
At the show, Honda introduced three electric vehicles, including its Honda Sports EV Concept car, a small sports car equipped with AI technologies that interact with the driver to make route suggestions.
Japan's third-largest carmaker is currently aiming to increase sales of hybrid and electric vehicles to two-thirds of its global sales volume by around 2030.
Suzuki Motor Corp. showcased its convertible electric e-Survivor compact sport utility model. The concept car has tires with illuminated wheels that turn blue on manual driving and green on autonomous driving.
Amid the industry's focus on EVs, Toyota Motor Corp. unveiled its new Fine-Comfort Ride fuel cell concept car that it says has a 50 percent greater range than the Mirai, the world's first mass-produced hydrogen fuel cell vehicle it put on sale in December 2014. Toyota's new vehicle has a range of 1,000 kilometers, the company says.
Despite being a pioneer of hybrid technology, Japan's largest carmaker by volume has been slow to embrace electric vehicles, but with the market rapidly expanding the company is moving to boost its efforts in EV production through a capital tie-up with Mazda Motor Corp.
"We have no doubt that EVs will be one of the key solutions in the near future...That doesn't mean we are moving away from fuel cells," Toyota Executive Vice President Didier Leroy said.
Toyota also introduced three Concept-i vehicles with autonomous driving and AI technologies. The company said it plans to start road testing the vehicles in Japan around 2020.
The Concept-i vehicles' AI technology allows the cars to switch to autonomous control if it detects the driver is becoming stressed through an analysis of facial expressions and behavior.
U.S. giants General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. are skipping the event for the fifth consecutive time, while Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Britain's Jaguar Land Rover Ltd. will not attend either. Overseas automakers have increasingly shifted their attention to China, which has emerged as the world's largest car market.
Visitors will be able to experience driving in connected cars in a futuristic Tokyo in an event that will allow 30 people at a time to use interconnected PlayStation VR headsets and share information about road conditions and the locations of gas stations through vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications.