Daihatsu is Japan's oldest car maker, celebrating its sixtieth year of production this year, having honed its skills in micro-vehicle design in an environment where space is at a premium, and the roads are as congested as any country on earth. Toyota's controlling interest looks set to pay off as the world is belatedly realizing that small cars are the future. The three concept cars it will exhibit at the Tokyo Motor Show two weeks from now point the way to the future in several ways and have resulted in the company adopting a slogan of "Big Answer from Small" for the showing.
Daihatsu specializes in producing Kei cars, a Japanese domestic market category of small vehicles favored by local tax and insurance regulations, and whereas the bonsai automobiles and commercial vehicles it produces were once regarded as too specialized for export markets, its expertise might well be very relevant to the future of urban transport everywhere.
Daihatsu actually plans to exhibit four concept cars at the 42nd Tokyo Motor Show but one of them appears to be just a color change on a previous concept, so we're only going to focus on the three new vehicles.
D-X Sports Car
At first glance, the D-X ( pronounced "d-cross") is reminiscent of a ruggedised smartphone case with the most vulnerable corners protected by a more durable, energy-absorbent material - almost too smart for words in a world where congested spaces often give rise to touch-parking techniques for the less spacially aware. Designing cars to take the inevitable punishment dished out by other drivers in car parks is so overdue that it has often appeared a purposeful nod to the auto repair industry by the world's car makers.
Daihatsu is calling it a new form for a sports car, but many readers will remember the early Honda S360, S500 and S600 sports cars with their diminutive size and small engine capacities. The D-X is actually quite similar to the old Honda, albeit vastly modernised.
Its two-cylinder engine features both direct-injection and turbo-charging. With this engine, Daihatsu has pursued conventional technology and struck a balance between the joy of driving and fuel-efficiency.
The PICO is similar to many concept and production cars of recent times in that it is a narrow-track, lightweight, tandem two-seater EV. Earlier this week Suzuki (another manufacturer which put down its automotive roots building Kei cars), announced its Q-Concept and along with Nissan's Landglider from the last Tokyo Motor Show, and Renault's Twizy Z.E. production EV, all are positioned between light automobiles and motorized bicycles.
Like the Suzuki Q-Concept, the PICO has been designed to be adaptable into different configurations, and might just as easily find application as a local delivery vehicle in a built-up environment. One of the features flagged by the press release is advanced radar.
The FC ShoCase might not find traction in the American market, but throughout Asia and in many other developing areas, small commercial vehicle find myriad purposes, from ferrying groups of passengers to mobile food stalls to showcasing and selling almost anything you can think of.
The FC ShoCase's big difference is that it is equipped with Daihatsu's proprietary liquid fuel cell technology which contains no precious metals.