2009 Tokyo Motor Show Report

October 21, 2009
Ken Hutchison
Ken Hutchison
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The ulcers keep piling on for the warden of the MotoUSA asylum. With the inmates running rampant around the globe, Hutch has opted to get in on the madness more these days than in years past and is back in the saddle again.

Tokyo  the home of its Motor Show for the 41st time in 2009.
What the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show lacked in attending manufacturers it made up for in the perceived increased emphasis on moving the automobile and motorcycle industry towards utilizing Green Technology in the near future.

Motorcycle USA checked out the 41st Tokyo Motor Show this afternoon and saw some interesting things, so here’s the report, live from Japan. This was the second of two media-only days and according to some of the Motor Show journo veterans this is the lightest turnout in terms of OEM participation from both Automotive and Motorcycle manufacturers in the show’s history. Noticeably absent motorcycle companies included Kawasaki, BMW and Ducati. The fact that Kawasaki didn’t show up in their-own backyard is particularly interesting. The fact that Buell was a big part of the Harley-Davidson display was equally interesting, considering the recent announcement that Buell is closing down.

From the automotive side of things, again BMW, Mercedes, all US-based manufacturers, along with all the high-end Italians autos were missing as well. Truly this is a sign of the tough times. It also is just my luck that the first time I have the opportunity to attend this prestigious event, it is the worst showing ever recorded. Oh well: Back to the report.

2009 Tokyo Motor Show Photo Gallery


From Honda the emphasis was all about its company’s ‘focus on personal mobility’ and desire to promote and develop hybrid, environmentally friendly vehicles. From the automotive side, the Skydeck is a very stylish 6-person Hybrid van and headlines a line of other green fuel cages. On the motorcycle side the new VFR1200F with its Dual Clutch Transmission and signature V-Four engine along with the retro-styled, air-cooled Inline-Four CB1100 lead the way. But, as usual, the truly unique products Honda offers made the biggest impact with attending press.

The U3-X is a high-tech unicycle cum robot that is intended to make the daily walk or commute in town an adventure of sorts. It rolls on a single wheel and utilizes balance technology perfected in the ASIMO robot. There were other robotic assistance robots on display but this one garnered the most attention. Beyond this the focus of what was undoubtedly the most substantial display on the floor, pushed Honda’s wide array of motorcycles and the technology that has made them such a huge success over the past 50 years.

Honda CEO Takanobu Ito poses with the CB1100 and VFR1200 at the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show.
Honda CEO Takanobu Ito poses with the CB1100 and VFR1200 at the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show.

Part of that success was capitalizing on the needs of the consumers and that’s exactly what Honda’s engineering department is focused on this year, particularly in the electric vehicle arena. Specifically, a pair of scooters – the electric EVE-neo and the PCX scooter that features idle-stop electronics – always gathered a crowd.

Over at Yamaha the big presentation featured the ‘Art of Engineering’. In this philosophy the hot topics were the Smart Power scooter and bicycle-styled experimental vehicles on display in front of the true core of Yamaha’s business: The V-Max R1, Road Star cruiser, new YZ450F and, of course, the world-conquering YZR-M1 MotoGP machine.

Hondas UX-3 is an interesting take on the concept of personal mobility - Tokyo Motor Show 2009
The odd Honda UX-3 is an interesting take on the concept of personal mobility.

But the EC-f and ECfs electric scooters were the cool items. The crowd was ga-ga for them with their X-shape, futuristic design elements. These machines seem to have real potential if they ever make it into production. Otherwise, Yamaha was really tooting its own horn by focusing on what it’s doing right and what the engineers are working on for the future, rather than what environmentally friendly items they are bringing to the table right now.

Suzuki on the other hand seems to be really focused on the Go Green theme. So much so, that the combination of green technology and retro-themed automobiles at its display area seem to be the emphasis for this company starting right now. Suzuki’s pushed its plug-in Hybrid Suzuki Swift automobile and the hydrogen Fuel Cell vehicles, including a Fuel Cell-equipped Burgman scooter. The air-cooled Fuel Cell powering this Burgman appears to be positioned as one of the first clean energy powered motorcycles/scooters unleashed on the public. This will be a real barometer of where the consumers stand on moving toward Clean Energy when this particular model is released, so keep your eyes peeled on this one.

Beyond the Japanese manufacturers the assortment of scoters from companies like Kymco, Pasta and the three-wheeled Can-Am Spyder series all were in attendance promoting their fuel-efficient vehicles in the latest trim. Stay tuned for a follow up report that shows some of the specific models we touched on here along with a video from the 41st Tokyo Motor Show. Stay tuned.

MV Agusta in Japan - Tokyo Motor Show 2009The Rizla Suzuki girls  always a pleasing site  posing with Suzuki entries at the 41st Tokyo Motor Show.
The OEMs may not have been fully represented, but fortunately the budgets haven’t
been slashed entirely, at least in the spokesmodel department.