Mark your calendars everybody: It’s officially the week of the Japanese roadster.
If you’ll recall, we started off the week looking at the Mazda MX-5 GT Jota. Then, yesterday we previewed the upcoming Honda S660 Concept, which takes its inspiration from the old Honda Beat mini-roadster. Today, in perhaps the biggest coincidence of all time, we now have official word that the Honda Beat’s old rival, the Daihatsu Copen, is also slated for a return to production.
Just like the original Honda Beat, the Daihatsu Copen was a tiny roadster built to comply with Japan’s strict kei car restrictions. Basically, kei (literally “light”) cars are defined by their small size and very low-displacement engines (less than 0.66 liters). The upside for kei drivers is that they enjoy lower taxes and exemption from some fees.
Kei regulations were originally established in post-war Japan to help popularize personal automobiles by offering drivers smaller, more affordable vehicles. However, the specific kei class never really caught on outside Japan, although there are mini cars in every market today.
Unlike the Honda Beat, the old Daihatsu Copen was successful enough to make it into the UK. However, just like the Beat and its successor (the Honda S2200), the Daihatsu Copen is no longer in production.
The difference is that where the S2000 was cut from Honda’s roster in 2009, Daihatsu stopped producing the Copen with a dramatic “10th anniversary final-500-models production run” in August of last year. It seems a little odd that they’d go through the trouble of removing a car from their lineup only to reintroduce it again one year later. Maybe it’s a marketing thing. Who knows?
One possible explanation is that the future Daihatsu Copen and the Copen of the past will differ enough that a break in production makes sense. For example, Daihatsu showcased eight brand-new concepts and the 2013 Indonesia International Motor Show earlier this year, and at least one of them was directly inspired by the Copen of old. Take a look at the D-R Concept below, which not only showcases distinctly Copen-like aesthetic themes, but also contains the exact same 660cc engine as the late kei roadster:
Unfortunately, unlike the Honda S660 concept, we have no idea what the new Daihatsu Copen will look like… The image at the top of this post is of the old Copen. We don’t even know for sure that we’ll see it before the end of 2013. It seems reasonable to assume that we’ll get a concept or prototype at next month’s Tokyo Motor Show, but no official premiere date has been set.
If you do happen to hear any news about the new Daihatsu Copen, please feel free to send us a tip. Current questions that the automotive blogosphere can’t answer include:
- Will the new Daihatsu Copen be built to Japan’s kei regulations?
- There are rumors that Toyota may help produce the next Copen in order to adopt the final product into their own lineup, is this true? (Given that Daihatsu is a Toyota subsidiary, that would seem likely)
- Will the next-gen Copen be the evolved version of the D-R Concept?
Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below, and come back tomorrow for more Japanese car news!
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