Eco friendly focus to Japan Motor Show

Fuji Heavy Industries President and CEO Yasuyuki Yoshinaga poses beside the company's new domestic sport touring wagon, "Subaru Levorg" during a press briefing at the Tokyo Motor Show 2013 Photo / AFP
Fuji Heavy Industries President and CEO Yasuyuki Yoshinaga poses beside the company's new domestic sport touring wagon, "Subaru Levorg" during a press briefing at the Tokyo Motor Show 2013 Photo / AFP

Japanese automakers will showcase their latest electronic technology and eco-friendly cars aimed at the growing low-emissions sector at the Tokyo Motor Show.

The biennial event, opens on Wednesday and runs until December 1 and will feature domestic makers of passenger cars, commercial vehicles and trucks alongside most of their European competitors.

A total of 177 exhibitors, including parts suppliers, from a dozen countries are taking part in the event's 43rd edition.

But US-based automakers, which have not attended since before the global financial crisis, are staying away again, as are South Korean producers, with the exception of Hyundai.

Toyota, the world's biggest automaker, will be among the major firms at the show after recovering from a series of crises in recent years, including the global financial meltdown, Japan's quake-tsunami disaster and the safety recall of millions of vehicles.

The big European automakers will be looking to boost their presence in the world's third-largest car market after China and the United States.

However, foreign brands hold a minuscule share - just 4.5 per cent - of a market that saw more than five million vehicles sold in Japan last year.

That puny presence has long stoked anger among US and some European automakers, which say they have been effectively shut out of Japan through tariffs and other barriers. The simmering issue is a key obstacle in ongoing free-trade negotiations.

Luxury German brands including Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Porsche, which have seen significant success in Japan, will be among this year's attendees, along with Audi, Volkswagen, Renault, Peugeot-Citroen, Britain's Land Rover and Sweden's Volvo.

The show will focus heavily on high-tech offerings and environmental technologies as firms look to tap the burgeoning green-vehicle sector, seen as the next evolution of the global automotive industry.

A pioneer of hybrid cars, Toyota is set unveil its latest fuel-cell concept car, with an expected commercial rollout two years away.

The four-seater sedan has a range of 500km - longer than previous versions - and can be recharged in just three minutes through hydrogen gas tanks stored inside the vehicle.

Fuel cell vehicles are considered the holy grail of green cars because they emit nothing but water vapour from the tailpipe and can operate on renewable hydrogen gas.

Toyota's concept vehicle seeks to jump two key hurdles that analysts say have hindered consumer buying of eco-friendly cars, including electric vehicles - range and re-fuelling infrastructure.

Relatively high prices have also dented demand.

However, purchases of low-emission vehicles are forecast to grow, with further technological advances in the field seen as crucial due to toughening emissions standards.

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