TEN YEARS ago, every major car manufacturer in the world would have been at the Tokyo motor show, but now the list of premier league no-shows is actually longer than those who did bother to turn up.
Ford, General Motors, Aston Martin, Bentley, Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Fiat, Hyundai and Kia may not have much in common, but this week they all shared the view that they have better things to do with their time than be in Tokyo.
It is a stance they may now be regretting. This was a resurgent Tokyo show, full of positive energy and brimming with interesting cars from both Japan and abroad.
Indeed there are so many candidates for the show’s most interesting car, that it’s genuinely hard to put a finger on a single star. The obvious choice is the Porsche Macan, the first mid-sized SUV from the Stuttgart marque which, while sharing a large amount of DNA with an Audi A5 is, I am told, as a werewolf to a snoozing labrador in comparison. Certainly it looked the mean and menacing part and, with a 400bhp Turbo version in its ranks and on the show stand, the firepower to back it up.
Then again, the Jaguar F-type coupé probably drew an even bigger crowd. This is partly because however good the car looked as a convertible, it looks even better with its top on. Also, Jaguar sprung a surprise by launching the new car in full-fat R guise, the first time its super-sporty badge has been applied to an F-type. That means 542bhp, 0-60mph in 4sec dead and a top speed limited to 186mph.
Perhaps the single most interesting, and unexpected, reveal was a city car calling itself the Yamaha Activ-E. It is actually the brain child of former F1 designer Gordon Murray. When he wasn’t designing title-winning race cars for Ayrton Senna, or designing the landmark F1 supercar, Murray dreamed of building a compact urban commuter car using a revolutionary flat-pack production process called iStream. Many years later, the dream appears on the point of becoming a reality: the Activ-E remains a concept for now, but few expect Yamaha to turn down the chance to build it.
Not to be outdone, the domestic manufacturers came up with a dizzying array of home-grown cars, almost all of them, in one way or another, themed around fun. Honda showed the gorgeous little S660 mid-engined roadster powered by a 660cc turbo motor but, sadly, destined only to sell in Japan, for now. At the other end of the performance scale, Nissan showed the £120,000 Nismo version of its GT-R supercar, which has already lapped the Nürburgring race track faster than any other mainstream production car in history.
In addition, there was the worldwide debut of the new Mini, a new small Honda SUV to rival the Nissan Juke, a Lexus concept to rival the Range Rover Evoque and a concept of a convertible Toyota GT86. To those who were there, and in spite of those who were not, this was a fine motor show. We look forward to visiting it again two years from now, when with luck, it should be back to full strength.