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Tokyo Motor Show Concept Cars: Small, Thrifty and Fun

October 21, 1993

MAKUHARI, Japan (AP) _ Japanese automakers’ concept cars, their vision of the future of auto design and technology, used to be sleek, speedy machines with monster engines.

No more.

The concept cars shown to the press Wednesday at the 30th Tokyo Motor Show were, for the most part, small, environmentally friendly, thrifty on fuel and designed for the family - not for the speed demon.

Concept cars are rarely sold in the form in which they appear at auto shows - if they are marketed at all. But automakers frequently incorporate elements of the cars into later models.

Most of Japan’s nine passenger car manufacturers also displayed electric vehicles they hope to sell in some form by the end of the decade, although high costs are currently a big obstacle.

The biennial show opens to the public on Saturday in Makuhari, near Tokyo.

Toyota, Japan’s largest auto maker, showed off its AXV-5, with a dashboard consisting of four display screens. One screen gives the location of the car, parking lots and gas stations, with information obtained from a satellite. Another receives TV station signals, although it’s coated with a special film so the driver can’t watch.

″We’re hoping to commercialize it in the coming years,″ said Norihisa Makino, Toyota’s design division assistant manager. ″The world is overflowing with information these days, and car drivers need some way to organize it.″

Toyota also is showing the RAV-4, a two-door, four-wheel-drive light recreation vehicle; the Mega-Cruiser, a hefty all-terrain cruiser with a powerful four-liter engine and spacious interior; and the Raum and Raum-II, boxy, two-door sedans with maximum interior space.

Nissan’s AP-X, the only sleek concept car at the show, was designed for fuel efficiency rather than speed, although its experimental, lightweight engine churns out 250 horsepower.

The four-door Nissan AQ-X has an abbreviated trunk that gives it the outer dimensions and fuel economy of a midsize car, with the inside room of Nissan’s top-of-the-line limousine, said Hiroshi Tonomura, assistant manager of Nissan’s Vehicle Research Laboratory.

Nissan’s all-terrain Rasheen combines ruggedness with a computer CD-ROM entertainment system, while the Mistral is a European-designed sport-utility vehicle that seats seven people.

Honda’s bubble-like FSR is billed as the family sedan of the 21st century, featuring ″intelligent safety,″ meaning it’s loaded with gyros and sensors to warn the driver of danger. It also has a panel on the trunk that can flash messages - polite ones - at cars behind it.

Mazda says its hydrogen-powered HR-X2 car is not only non-polluting but, built largely of polymer fiber-reinforced plastic, 100 percent recyclable.

Mitsubishi’s lineup, based on the ″small is beautiful″ concept, includes the two-seater Mum-500 runabout and the Lynx, which along with Suzuki’s two- seat, all-terrain X90, marks the first attempt at twin-passenger, four- wheel-drive vehicles.

Mitsubishi’s HSR roadster is also ″intelligent,″ with numerous safety devices including a drowsiness detector.

Isuzu put out a pair of multipurpose recreational vehicles; Fuji Heavy Industries, which makes the Subaru nameplate, displayed two station wagon-like cars; and Daihatsu showed several minicars, its specialty.

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