The Tokyo Motor Show, 2009

Welcome to the latest iteration of the Tokyo Motor Show, Japan’s blowout celebration of all things transportation (albeit a bit more subdued than in prior years, likely fallout from the Great Financial Meltdown of 2009). The list of former exhibitors missing in action this year reads like a Who’s Who of the automotive industry: Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Peugeot, Renault, Fiat, Ferrari, Maserati, Bentley, Rolls Royce, VW, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Saab, Volvo, Jaguar, Mini, Lamborghini, and Land Rover. In fact, the only three non-Japanese exhibitors I noticed were the comparatively tiny firms of Alfa-Romeo, Caterham and Lotus. That said, the Japanese firms (Toyota, Lexus, Honda, Nissan, Mazda, Daihatsu, Mitsubishi, Suzuki and Subaru) took up the slack nicely, offering up concept cars galore (this year’s theme being “Eco”), and of course the ubiquitous mini-skirted Tokyo Motor Show lovelies who graced every stand.

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An early Friday crowd. Don’t these people have to work or go to school?

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The future of scooters, as foretold by Yamaha

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Saki-chan on a Buell 1200cc bike, roughly 24 times the displacement of her usual transport, a Honda scooter

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Honda’s hybrid sports couple, the CR-Z, destined for the US in 2010

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Honda’s hotrod Civic Si-R, which makes the US Civic look a little long in the tooth

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The Suzuki Lapin, sort of a ¾ scale version of the Nissan Cube

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Not one ounce of retro in the Mazda Kiyora concept car!

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And this, believe it or not, is a Subaru!

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Part of the Lexus exhibit was an industrial art gallery, featuring this uber-cool concept bicycle...

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...and the Lucite Lexus, a see-through version that changes color while you watch

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Little Caterham show off its back-to-the-basics roadster: no a/c, no power windows (no windows, actually), basically nothing but engine and tires (and speed and crazed laughter)

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A particularly fetching example of the Tokyo Motor Show lovelies

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Nissan’s Zero-Emissions Land Glider, seats two...one behind the other!

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Mitsubishi ups the ante for smooth SUV crossovers, with the titanium-hued PX-MiEV, a plug-in hybrid

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The teen-fantasy Lotus Elite...

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...and its altogether more sinister cousin, the Stealth

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And a couple of clever ideas from Daihatsu, an open air conveyance called the Basket, whose back seats fold down and create a pickup truck bed...

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And the DecaDeca, a squarish mini-minivan that doubles as a mobile office.

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And finally, a Crayola box of Toyota IQs; note that the rear windshield wipers have been surreptitiously placed in the "down" position by a young fellow with an exceptionally mischievous grin

So, the auto industry may be down, but if the Tokyo Motor Show is any indication, it is definitely not out. The advance guard of ecocars, the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight, have made their way stateside, and the next generation is en route, featuring minivans, crossovers, stately luxoboats and even sports cars! To paraphrase the legendary Henry Ford, they are available in any color you want, as long as it’s Green.

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