Posts Tagged ‘japanese cars’

Nissan Figaro: The Retro Open Top Classic Japanese Car

Posted by Stephen On Friday, May 6th, 2016

There’s a reason that retro cars are catch the eye of many car collectors – not only do they get more rare as time goes on, but they represent a bygone era while having underpinnings from a more modern age. This could explain why the Nissan Figaro, a retro car first introduced in Japan in 1989, was so popular during its limited production – and why it remains a collector’s item today.

The Nissan Figaro was originally only sold in Japan, but it eventually became very popular in the UK and Ireland after it was released officially in 1991. It was designed by Shoji Takahashi, who won a design competition for it, and has some resemblance to the 1960s Datsun Fairlady models. Unlike contemporary Mitsuokas, with their bolt-on retro-look parts, the Figaro represents a complete vision of what a modern car styled on 1960s principles would look like.

Nissan Figaro catalog

Only a limited number were produced, with the original 8,000 being supplemented by 12,000 more in order to meet demand. The car came in only four colors, which together represented the four seasons of the year: Topaz Mist, Emerald Green, Pale Aqua and Lapis Grey. Topaz Mist was the rarest, with only 2,000 models produced in this color.

Part of the inspiration for the car came from the theme of the 1989 Tokyo Motor Show, which was “Back to the Future”. Its name, “Figaro”, referred to the main character in Pierre Beaumarchais’ famous play, The Marriage of Figaro, based on the Mozart opera of the same name. A Nissan special projects group called Pike Factory, which specialized in producing niche automobiles such as the Be-1, Pao and S-Cargo, also worked on the Nissan Figaro.

Some features of the Figaro were leather seats, air conditioning, a CD player (which also had a retro radio look) and an open roof; furthermore, special limited edition cars included passenger side baskets and cup holders. The car was so rare that people who wanted to buy it had to enter a lottery, which increased its value even more and led to the modern-day perception of the Figaro as a rare car. Some parts can be hard to acquire, but many are available as they are also used in more common Nissan models of the time.

Nissan Figaro catalog

The fuel economy is an impressive 39 miles per gallon, but the a top speed of 106 miles per hour is somewhat lacking. Not surprising given the 60-horsepower engine. The Figaro’s genuine leather seats are a big draw for fans of this car. Not only do they look classy, but they add to a cabin environment that blends a distinctive complementary style. Adding to this is the low-mount headrest and synthetic leather piping that is used to prevent leather fatigue.

One of the Figaro’s most unique trademarks is its retractable top, which has an external design that is completely hidden in the trunk. The top is equipped with a double lock and warning buzzer as safety features, as well as a secondary hood latch that is designed to prevent the hood from opening while the car is being driven, or if it its activation switch is turned on by accident.

Features of the body include a flush mount apron and flush mount fender, as well as glassfibre resin material used with an outer gel coat for the car’s front fenders and front grill. The materials that are used result in body components that are durable and low-maintenance, which is especially helpful as it is difficult to find places to service and maintain the car. Fluoroplastic paint, which comes in the car’s signature four colors, is used on this vehicle.

Today, the best place to find Figaros for sale is the Japanese car auctions. With 7 to 8 million vehicles passing through each year, even rare vehicles like this one can be sourced with relative ease. Contact us to find out more.


Toyota Corolla Turns 50

Posted by Stephen On Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

Out of the thousands of cars that have ever been manufactured anywhere in the world, only nine models have stayed in production consistently for 50 years — and only two companies have achieved this level of success twice.

From the U.S., Ford Motor Company — the fifth largest automaker in the world — has done it with the Mustang, which was first unveiled at the World’s Fair in New York (1964/1965); and with their F-Series pickups which came onto the scene in 1948. Not surprisingly, Japanese industry leader Toyota holds the other spot in this lofty statistic. Their Land Cruiser has been around since 1951 when it originated as a military vehicle; and the Corolla entered production in 1966 (which motortrend.com reports incorrectly as 1968), making it the newest member of a very elite few.

Don’t be confused by the 50th Anniversary Edition Camry, which, in 2007, was a salute to the number of years that Toyota had been doing business in the U.S. and had nothing to do with the production history of the Camry.

50th Anniversary Edition Corolla

To celebrate this stellar accomplishment, Toyota has produced a 50th Anniversary Edition Corolla to be offered this fall in the U.S. as a way to emphasize the worldwide love for this car. Primarily based on the 2017 Corolla SE, the anniversary design introduces a delicious new black-cherry color scheme on the interior dashboard panel and door trim, contrast stitching of the upholstery, and the eye-catching new exterior paint (which is also available in Classic Silver and Blizzard Pearl).

Fifty years is a significant length of time to produce an automobile, and Toyota’s ability to remain at the top of the car game is directly linked to their unwavering pursuit to out-perform themselves. Here are the highlights on how the engineers approached each new Corolla generation:

1. 1966-1970

With a name that means, “crown of flowers,” the Corolla quickly became a favorite family car all around the world. It was almost as if the ad campaign tagline, “The most wanted car by the market …” was in truth, a prediction because three years later, the car reached the number one position in domestic sales.

2. 1970-1974

To change, or not to change? After realizing such a boon with the first generation Corolla, engineers rolled the dice on a new design that valued the feel of the previous model with a whole new set of bells, whistles and curves. Their gamble was rewarded immediately; by June 1970, Corolla’s cumulative production totaled one million units. Very impressive,considering it had only been on the market for a few years.

3. 1974-1979

Strict vehicle emissions regulations were implemented around the globe, so Toyota started a company-wide project that resulted in the perfection of a catalyst-based exhaust gas purification system, that to this day, remains the standard.

4. 1979-1983

Quality of life was taking a front seat in the fourth generation design which was reborn as a luxury family car with a superior performance overall. From January 1983 to March 1983, Toyota saw Corolla sales reach 116 nations, and go from 4.75 million units to 10 million.

5. 1983-1987

Always leading the way in technical innovations, Toyota offered a choice of drivetrains this time around. Front wheel drive conveyed a spacious, comfortable interior, and rear wheel drive provided an exciting, sporty experience. Once again, Corolla held the number one position in domestic sales.

6. 1987-1991

Satisfying the heart and mind, appealing to all five senses, was the primary focus of this generation’s design that sought to set a new global standard.

7. 1991-1995

A downward turn in the Japanese economy led consumers’ focus to shift from quality to price, and, despite the economic struggle, the Corolla maintained the top market share in its class.

8. 1995-2000

Energy savings and resource conservation paved the way to top-level fuel efficiency by way of substantial weight reductions, and environmental awareness by improving recyclability. Diesel engines were added for cleaner emissions.

9. 1997-2002

The basic Corolla concept was wiped away, and a European exterior design was adopted to rival the allure of higher grade vehicles. Talk of changing the Corolla name was quickly dashed by the developer.

10. 2006-2013

Providing customers with a “Happy Corolla for Our Planet” was the driving force behind the 10th generation’s design that relied on a global point of view with attention placed on safety, reliability and the environment. It was during this time that the Corolla was overtaken by the hybrid Prius as the top selling car in Japan. But did that mean it was now curtains for the Corolla?

11. 2013 –

The design goal is to stimulate wakudoki — a state of excitement about having fun derived from Japanese words waku waku and doki doki, and a heart that beats faster because of it — by exceeding customer expectations. The 11th generation Toyota Corolla is counting on this to keep this model delivering the same amazing results as the previous models in the last 50 years.

Japanese Car Auction Find: 1985 Toyota Corolla

The first car I drove in Japan was a 1992 seventh generation model. I was so impressed with its durability that I bought myself an eighth generation model. But when I went to look in the upcoming auctions, the oldest one I could find was nothing like 50 years old — it was a mere spring chicken from 1985 — a relatively young 31-year-old 5th generation model, but with an impressive mileage of under 26,000 KM on the clock. Let’s see what the auction sheet says.

“Grade 3.5, interior C, first registered October 1985, five-door model, five-speed manual gearbox, AC, gasoline engine, stone chips in front windshield, interior grime and cigarette burns and cigarette burn holes, steering wheel worn, rust underneath vehicle, left side has medium waves, rear gate damper is no good, radiator support and left front inner panel wrinkled, left front side member end has panel beating marks, scratches and dents and faded paintwork, paintwork worn on bonnet and on roof and on front fenders, right front indicator lens cracked, replaced panel and other marks as per map”

Its not in the best of conditions, but that is an impressive average mileage of under 1000KM per year.

1985 Toyota Corolla at auction in Japan -- interior

1985 Toyota Corolla at auction in Japan -- rear

1985 Toyota Corolla at auction in Japan -- auction sheet

1985 Toyota Corolla at auction in Japan -- front


Toyota Prius: The Car That Started A Revolution

Posted by Stephen On Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

With the Toyota Prius now being reborn in its 4th incarnation, it’s a great time to look back at the original Prius – the car that started the hybrid revolution. Now hybrids are so common that we have forgotten just how revolutionary this powertrain was when it was launched back in 1997. I remember my first ride in an early model on some hilly roads in Japan, and how it was such a different experience to what I had been used to up to that point.

Throughout history, cars have traditionally been damaging to the environment through the release of greenhouse gases that come about through the burning of fossil fuels (such as gasoline). The rise of “gas guzzlers” and their huge engines that came with the primarily US car culture of the 1960s and 1970s saw carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide and other nasties spewed into the air, causing the global climate damage leading to adverse health effects in large cities where pollution was rampant.

As time went on, however, more and more people began to realize that this was a serious problem – and thus, as global awareness of climate change and the dangers of pollution rose, car companies began to consider alternatives to the traditional gas-fueled vehicle.

Enter the hybrid car: a solid compromise between the gasoline-hungry polluter and the (as yet impossible to produce) all-electric car. Although the concept of hybrid cars has been around for a while – almost since the start of motoring itself, in fact – one car really set the trend for others to follow in the automobile industry, and became a favorite with consumers and critics alike: the Toyota Prius.

The first generation model was launched in Japan in 1997 and went on sale worldwide in 2000. Manufactured by the Japanese auto maker Toyota, this mid-size hatchback is currently sold in over 90 markets, of which Japan and the United States are the largest. In 2008, the Prius reached the global cumulative sales milestone of 1 million vehicles; from there, it grew exponentially, selling 2 million cars by September 2010 and 3 million mark by June 2013.

There is a reason that the car is so popular: its environmentally-friendly nature is appealing to many people who feel that they have an obligation to pollute as little as possible, but don’t have the means to purchase an all-electric car (or to not drive at all). Currently the United States Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board rank the Prius among the cleanest vehicles sold in the United States based on the quantity of emissions it releases. In 2016, the new Prius Eco has become the all-time most fuel efficient gasoline-powered car available in the US without plug-in capability – making it not only environmentally conscious, but accessible for many everyday working-class citizens.

The first-generation Toyta Prius, however, had not yet achieved such lofty heights. When it debuted at the Tokyo Motor Show in 1995, no one was quite sure how well the Prius would sell or whether it was even ready for the market; several more years of research and development went into the car before it could be sold in Japan. However, the car’s designers did have some inkling of what this vehicle could mean for the world; that’s why they named it the Prius, after the Latin word for “before.” According to the Boston Globe, a Toyota spokesperson stated that “Toyota chose this name because the Prius vehicle is the predecessor of cars to come.” Now, that name Prius is almost synonymous with tree-hugging – an eco-brand in its own right – loved by Greenpeace, hated by Jeremy Clarkson.

When it launched, the first generation Prius became the world’s first mass-produced gasoline-electric hybrid car. Its acclaim among critics was almost instantaneous: it won the Car of the Year Japan Award in 1997, and the Automotive Researchers’ and Journalists’ Conference Car of the Year award in Japan in 1998. Since then, the sales figures have spoken for themselves, as have each subsequent model’s new hybrid features and increasing move towards alternative, rather than gasoline-powered, energy.

The Prius, more than anything, prides itself on fuel efficiency – and it has achieved many of its goals in this regard. While the current fourth generation Prius is expected to achieve ratings of up to 116 MPG, the first generation vehicle already stood at an impressive 52 MPG, and thus was revolutionary for both the fuel economy and environmental benefits that it offered. Although it was not the first mass-produced hybrid in the U.S. – the Honda Insight came first – it was by far the most popular.

While there are still questions asked about just how environmentally friendly it actually is, considering all the exotic metals and materials that go into it, there is no doubt that the Toyota Prius is an iconic Japanese car.

Early Prius are very hard to find. I was not able to find any 1997s at auction or at dealers, and only 2 1998 models for sale by dealers. So instead I decided to go to the other end of the spectrum and check out the very latest model, of which you can already find many examples for sale in the Japanese car auctions. Here is the auction sheet translation:

“Grade S, interior A, exterior A, first registered April 2016, first time in auction, S Navigation Ready Package model, 3KM, in-dash AT, AAC, moo roof, maker option LED fog lamp, LED headlights, smart key, reversing rearview camera, steering wheel switches, vehicle proximity warning system, original alloy wheels, sunroof, airbag, power steering, power windows, hole where there is no stereo fitted, marks as per map”

2016 Toyota Prius at Japanese car auction -- inside

2016 Toyota Prius at Japanese car auction -- rear seat

2016 Toyota Prius at Japanese car auction -- rear

2016 Toyota Prius at Japanese car auction -- front

2016 Toyota Prius in Japanese car auction -- auction sheet


The Hydrogen Highway – Japan’s Bet Against Battery EVs

Posted by Stephen On Tuesday, April 5th, 2016

Japanese automotive manufacturer, Toyota, is reinforcing the government’s push for a “hydrogen highway” with it’s latest next-generation hybrid — Mirai, which means “future” in Japanese. Recently, at the New York International Auto Show, this new entry into Japan’s race to become a “hydrogen society,” was declared the 2016 World Green Car. Twenty-three countries — represented by 73 top-level automotive journalists — had to choose between eight entries, including the Toyota Prius Hybrid. Factors that the jurors took into consideration when making their selection included:

1. Tailpipe emissions
2. Fuel consumption
3. Use of an advanced power plant technology aimed at increasing the automobile’s environmental responsibility.

(Unfortunately, these journalists seem to have missed the point that many of the — very few — hydrogen refueling stations require fossil fuels for its production, and take a lot of engineering to build. Hardly very green!)

Toyota Mirai World Green Car of the Year 2016

Energy of the Future

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hopes hydrogen will help Tokyo find an alternative energy source to nuclear power, and reduce reliance on imported oil. Japan is the sixth largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world. Of course, an obvious option would be solar, wind and geothermal, which is why it is strange — except when you realize that the nuclear industry is a huge bureaucracy with deep connections to the government.

Group vice president and general manager, Bill Fay, of Toyota Division, points to three major factors about Mirai that will help lead the world in a more sustainable direction:

1. It has a per tank travel range of over 300 miles.
2. Unlike electric vehicles that can take several hours to recharge, refueling the Mirai can be done in under five minutes. Much like putting gasoline or diesel fuel in a car, a nozzle is inserted and a trigger squeezed to fill the tank.
3. Emissions consist solely of water vapor.

Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe; it is also incredibly powerful so Toyota has taken important steps in the design of its hydrogen tanks, which are tucked under and away from the back seats. Safety assurance is achieved through polymer-lined tanks that are carbon-fiber wrapped and multi-patented. Their three-layer structure is built to absorb five times the crash energy of steel. Additionally, the car has a unique frame design that distributes crash forces around the passenger cabin, the hydrogen tanks and the fuel cell stacks.

However, in the event of a high-speed collision, you’ll be relieved to know that several measures are in place to prevent any leaking and subsequent combustion of the hydrogen tanks.

First: Sensors stop the flow of hydrogen.

Second: Any leaked hydrogen is quickly dispersed.

Third: Hydrogen escapes safely and rapidly into the air.

Hisashi Nakai, who works in Toyota’s strategy planning department, dismisses concerns about hydrogen posing any dangerous explosion risks despite the highly volatile and flammable properties of the gas. Nakai insists that rigorous testing has been performed on the tank and that it can withstand any shock. “(Fuel-cell vehicles) appear to be the ideal green cars,” he says.

Of course, a cynic would say that with new battery tech on the way using graphene, a derivative of carbon, that will be virtually inert under impact, the fact that Toyota is considering replacing one explosive fuel (gasoiline) with another one (hydrogen) is a bit of a mystery.

Mirai Fuel Cell Anatomy

– No internal combustion (the process of burning something).
– No carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions — at least at the tail pipe.
– The electric motor is from an existing hybrid Lexus (Toyota’s luxury brand).
– A Power Control Unit (PCU) decides when to draw energy directly from the fuel cell stack or use stored energy from the battery.
– Hydrogen and oxygen are combined in an electrochemical reaction, which produces electricity.

The Cost of Conservation

– A comparable electric car costs 6.7 million JPY (roughly $55,000 U.S.)
– A Mirai fuel-cell car costs nearly double that amount.
– The central government throws in a subsidy of two million yen to the buyers to offset some of the purchase expense. Even though their contribution covers approximately one-fourth of the total cost of the car, the price is still very high.

Hype of the Hydrogen Highway

The Japan Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Demonstration Project is dedicated to building an infrastructure network of filling stations along roadsides, aka the “hydrogen highway.” This highly-publicized project is sure to be touted at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

The Japanese government said that it will subsidize half the total building expense for the first 100 locations and will bear some of the operational costs. As of March 2016, Japan had fallen 20 percent short of its target of 100 operational hydrogen stations due to the high cost of constructing them: about 400 million yen (over $3.2 million U.S.) each. Japan is not alone; slow construction of hydrogen refueling stations around the world is cramping efforts by automakers to convince the public that hydrogen is a viable option.

Japan’s Government Projections and Predictions

– There will be 4,200 hydrogen cars on the roads of Japan.

Deadline: 2018

– Toyota, specifically, plans to boost Mirai sales to 12,000 units in Japan.

Deadline: 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

– Prime Minister Abe envisions an annual hydrogen market worth one trillion yen ($8.3 billion U.S.), which would also supply hydrogen-producing technology to 5.3 million residences

Deadline: 2030

Postscript

It is hard not to rain on this parade, but … The expense of new fueling stations. The decidedly non-green way most hydrogen is being created. The major strides taking place in battery tech. The cost reductions in batteries when Tesla’s Gigafactory comes on line. All these and more are going to make the case for hydrogen difficult (or in this writer’s view impossible) to make over the coming years.

It would not be the first time Japan has embraced a technological evolutionary dead end — remember Betamax, or MD players ? — and with the full weight of bureaucratic inertia behind it, I would not be surprised if hydrogen fuel cell cars were the same.


Japanese Car Icons: The Honda CR-V

Posted by Stephen On Friday, April 1st, 2016

You may not think of the CR-V as a Japanese car icon, but when it was introduced in Japan back in 1995, it was a pioneer of the compact SUV segment.

Few cars combine everything you’re looking for into one package, but the Honda CR-V has always been one such car. As a family-friendly small SUV with appealing features at an affordable price, it can be summed up in two words: versatile and varied.

Read on to learn more about what characterizes the Honda CR-V and what makes it stand out.

History of the Honda CR-V

The car was first introduced in Japan in 1995 as Honda’s first in-house designed SUV. In fact, it can probably lay claim to being one of the first compact SUVs – a leader in a segment that seems to be ubiquitous in many markets.

Hiroyuki Kawase designed the first model of this car, which Honda began manufacturing in 1997. Since then, several theories have come about to explain what the “CR-V” stands for. “Comfortable Runabout Vehicle” is what you see in early promotional materials, but also “Compact Recreational Vehicle”, and “Civic Recreational Vehicle” have all been suggested. Whatever its official title, the Honda CR-V is currently on its fourth generation, with a new model released each year and major changes made every several years.

The first generation of Honda CR-Vs featured two types of trim levels: LX and EX, with the major difference being that the EX trim offered anti-lock brakes and larger wheels while LX did not. Furthermore, the design included rear seats that could be folded down and a picnic table that was stowed in the rear floor area. The Honda CR-V received a facelift between 1999 and 2001, which boosted the engine’s power and introduced new safety features such as an improved front bumper.

The second generation CR-V was fully redesigned from the first, and based its model off of the seventh generation Honda Civic. A new engine and chassis formed the bulk of the changes from the first generation, as well as an overall more streamlined appearance. As a result, Car and Driver magazine named the second generation Honda CR-V the Best Small SUV for 2002 and 2003. A 2005 facelift changed the appearance of the grille and added enlarged wheels, and introduced XM Satellite Radio to the interior of the car.

The third generation CR-V, launched in 2006, was designed to be lower, wider, and shorter than the previous CR-V models. To make this happen, this generation stowed the spare tire inside instead of attaching it to the back, decreasing the overall length of the vehicle. A newer, five-speed automatic transmission was introduced and mandatory transmission was completely phased out in order to implement a better MPG rating and smoother shifting. Internal features of the third generation CR-V included integrated navigation, voice activated control, a six-disc CD player, a rear backup camera, and an iPod dock. As a result, the Honda CR-V became one of the ten best selling vehicles of 2007. Style, powertrain, and equipment changes were introduced in 2009 for the 2010 model year as well.

The fourth and current generation was introduced at the Orange County International Auto Show and the Los Angeles Auto Show in 2011, and went on sale later that year. The new redesign features devices such as continuously variable transmission (CVT), suspension shock absorbers, springs, anti-roll bars and lower control arms to improve smoothness and decrease the chances of having an accident while driving. During Super Bowl XLVI, Honda promoted the new CR-V with an endorsement from actor Matthew Broderick of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off fame.

Features of the Honda CR-V

The Honda CR-V is known for having the following features and benefits:

1. Size

As a “compact SUV”, the CR-V is both large enough to meet the needs of a family and small enough to be driven and parked comfortably. The car can seat up to five people and thus works whether your family includes one, two, three or more other people; it also has plenty of storage space to fit in everyone’s belongings. At the same time, you’ll never have trouble fitting into a parking space or feel like the vehicle is too cumbersome.

2. Price

The CR-V is reasonably priced and as a compact SUV you will find you get more car for your money (as well as 4WD safety) for the kind of money you used to have to pay for a family sedan.

Where Honda has been overtaken in the compact SUV segment is in the areas of style and exclusivity. Land Rover’s Range Rover Evoque and Porsche’s Macan easily beat the bland CR-V in this department, illustrating a problem bedeviling many Japanese manufacturers – how to translate underlying quality into the surface style and panache that commands premium prices.

Early Grade 4 RD-1 CR-V at auction in Japan

Let’s take a look at one of those early first generation RD1-type CR-Vs and see what you can get for your money at auction in Japan.

This one has only 61,654 KM on the clock, even though was first put on the road in 1997. Let’s have a look at the translation of the auction inspection report:

“Grade 4, interior grade C, first registered 1997 (month not stated), two litre engine, four-wheel-drive, AT, AAC, original alloy wheels, power steering, power windows, interior grime and yellowing, scratches and dents, marks as per map”

As you can see, this CR-V may be almost 20 years old, but it is in remarkably good condition. (Although this kind of condition and mileage even lower than this is not at all uncommon among cars that are being auctioned in Japan.) According to our online system, the estimated market value of this car at auction here in Japan is around 60,000 JPY.

Interested in getting a CR-V like this one, or a later model? We can help you source them from Japan’s car auctions and ship them to you. Why not sign up for 14 days of guest access through our website here to see the cars that are available?

RD1 Honda CR-V auction in Japan - auction inspection report

RD1 Honda CR-V auction in Japan - rear

RD1 Honda CR-V auction in Japan - interior

RD1 Honda CR-V auction in Japan - front


Japan Gears up for Automated Driving

Posted by Stephen On Thursday, March 31st, 2016

Japan adores displaying its superior technological aptitude to the world — and the future holds a perfect opportunity for them to stun us all with automated driving. Right now, the entire automobile industry in Japan is working diligently to take full advantage of all the exposure they’ll receive when the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics come to Tokyo. Japan’s rank as a global leader in the car-making industry is undoubtedly spurring their efforts.

one car ahead

The Impetus Propels the Cause

In April of 2010, the Japanese government announced the “Next-Generation Vehicle Strategy” initiative as part of their environmental protection efforts. It seeks to increase the percentage of hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles as well as fuel cell and total electric vehicle sales to 50 percent of all car sales by 2020 (and to 70 percent by 2030). The most recent statistic available from the Japan Automobile Manufacturer’s Association, Inc. (JAMA) is from 2014 which reveals that number to be a mere 6.7 percent. This figure translates to an increase of more than 40 percent of total vehicle sales by 2020.

This endeavor is a monumental undertaking, further burdened by JAMA’s estimates that total next-gen vehicle purchases will likely level off at little more than 10 percent of total car sales by 2020. So, how do you increase the interest in buying an alternatively powered vehicle? Incentives such as subsidies, infrastructure development, and tax breaks will certainly help. JAMA, however, knows what all drivers dream about so they have rolled out a timeline that calls for increased application of automated driving technologies between 2020 and 2030. Driverless cars are on their way, in three not-so-simple steps:

Step 1: Increase the number of automated functions in new vehicles.

Deadline: 2020

– Japan implements a “Strategic Innovation Program” to introduce compatible road traffic systems as well as automated driving systems.

Step 2: Expand technology in driving environments.

Deadline: 2030

– Develop the necessary technology needed for reliable communications and secure data supply infrastructures.

Step 3: Full deployment of advanced automated driving.

Deadline: 2050

– Design and build advanced road environments specifically for driverless cars.
– The Japanese government, the auto industry, and academia work together for regulatory legislation.

The Driver’s Side is the New Passenger Side

Giving up control of the wheel is a proposal that is as exciting as it is scary. You’ve probably noticed, however, that we are gently being conditioned to accept a hands-free driving experience. The parking-assist feature that many manufacturers have installed in their models is one of several perks in the works. This PCmag.com article ranks the best 2015 driver-assist cars. It’s no surprise that five Japanese brands — Honda, Acura, Mazda, Subaru, and Mitsubishi — are in the top 10. These are the next-generation features they boast:

– Blind Spot Detection: A warning light or alert sound lets you know it is not safe to change lanes. An active system will steer your vehicle back into your lane for you.
– Lane Departure Warning: Alerts the driver when the car drifts over the lane lines. An active system will automatically steer you back in your lane.
– Forward Collision Warning: A camera and a radar sensor detect how far away the car in front of you is, sounding an alert when an accident is impending. A prevention system actively applies the brakes for you.
– Active Cruise Control: This technology uses a radar sensor that will adjust your cruise control speed up or down to compensate for the varying speeds of vehicles in front of you, even in stop-and-go traffic.
– Automated Parking: Automated cameras help take control of steering your car into a parallel parking spot; some technology also guides parking into perpendicular spots.

The systems listed above are designed to reduce, if not eliminate, human error while driving. Automated technologies just emerging and still in production will also take over the following maneuvers:

– Lane changing
– Merging into traffic
– Exiting an off-ramp
– Turning at intersections
– Urban driving (completely automated)
– Driverless parking (like an invisible valet service)

The top six Japanese automakers — Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Mazda, Subaru, and Mitsubishi — are enthusiastically engaged in the development of this futuristic technology. All the while, the public’s interest is rising just as planned.

Autonomous Driving vs. Adaptive Driving

Data concerning the vehicle’s surroundings is detected and processed by onboard sensors in lower-level autonomous driving. Adaptive driving uses certain vehicle operations in a higher-level of automation based on communications with road infrastructure, other cars, and roadside signals.

Plan B: The Biofuel Initiative

To loop back to the cause — protection of the environment — JAMA introduced an initiative in March 2016 to reduce fossil fuel consumption by increasing production of alcohol made from sugarcane and cassava (the source of tapioca). Also being promoted is biodiesel, extracted from oil palms to help advance agricultural policies and aid in reducing global warming.

Policies and plans … but what results?

For me the real question is whether Japan’s top-down policies and plans bureaucratic approach is going to produce results in time. After all, the other side of the Pacific you have companies like Tesla and Google already making great strides in autonomous vehicles. Then there is the cash king Apple, currently on the sidelines, but rumored to be looking to get into the automotive business in some capacity.

Will Japan’s reputation for technological innovation in the motor industry still be intact ten years from now, or will their offerings be left behind like the Sony Walkman while the world moves on to iPhones?


Japan Car Auction Finds: The Retro (Nissan) Pao

Posted by Stephen On Friday, March 25th, 2016

The Nissan Pao was originally announced in October of 1987 at the 26th Tokyo Motor Show before production began in 1988. Its retro looks gave it instant appeal, such that when it first came out, you had to make a reservation to purchase it as it was intended as a limited edition.
The name itself was supposedly from a Mongolian word meaning a meeting house. To heighten the impact of this one-syllable name Nissan also just marketed it as the “Pao” without the Nissan name in front of it.

Between January and April of 1989 reservations were made and the car sold out in three months. It was very popular at the time and still is a coveted and collectible car. Nissan stopped production in 1990, so the car at auction (below) is one of the last ones off the line. Such is its status as a design icon that one is displayed in the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
As a 3-door hatchback, it does not really fit into modern car buying habits, but the cohesive retro looks have aged well, so that it is hard to believe that the design is getting on for 30 years old.

One great thing about the Pao is that it is one of the spinoffs of the K10 Nissan March / Micra. (The other two being the Figaro and Be-1.) As a result, many of the mechanical parts are still relatively easy to come by, which would not be true if it was a genuine low-volume vehicle.

Designer Naoki Sakaki is credited with the designs for both the Nissan Pao and Nissan Be-1.

Specifications:

  • It was available in three body colors: terracotta, ivory, olive gray and aqua gray and two interior colors: ivory and black.
  • It came with either a three-speed automatic or five-speed manual transmission and had a 1.0 liter engine.
  • It was a great city car, only needing 14.4 feet to turn.
  • It’s fuel economy is still impressive by 2016 standard, getting up to 51 mpg in the city and 79 mpg at a constant 37 MPH.
  • It featured a distinctive clam shell hatch in back with the glass section swinging up and bottom opened into a tailgate.
  • Part of the retro look was external door hinges and flap-up windows.
  • Even the AM/FM radio tape deck was built to look as if it were from the 1950s.
  • Despite its small size, it can seat up to five passengers.
  • Popularity Today

    With its unique appearance, people either seem to love or hate it. Nissan was taking a risk at the time in designing something completely different. It almost looks like a modernized version of a car from the 1950’s. It is a testament to its design that there are groups of fanatical enthusiast owners both inside and outside Japan.

    Now, if you want one, you would think the limited edition status of this vehicle would make it hard to come by, but you can always find some good examples in the auctions in Japan. Let’s have a look at one of these below.

    Here is the translation of the auction inspector’s report:

    “Grade 4, interior B, exterior condition B, first registered February 1990, normal roof, 2WD, FAT, AC, original stereo, original side visor and mats, original steel wheels, power steering, 108,326KM, fornt and rear seats have been re-covered, some roadworthiness test history (2010, 2012, 2014), sticker shows the timing belt has been replaced, interior grime and scratches, oil leak, wheels scratched, door mirrors scratched, minor scratches and minor dents, marks as per map”

    Nissan Pao at Japanese car auction - inspection report

    The first thing to note is that this car has been graded 4, which is about the best you can expect from a 26-year-old car. This car also has a great-looking interior with the original retro stereo being retained, and all the seats having been re-done. For the avid collector, the downside would be that this is the fixed roof version, rather than the canvas top version. Of course, this means the option of open-top motoring is not available, but on the other hand the potential issues with the canvas top getting damaged or aging, resulting in rainwater leaks aren’t going to be a problem.

    Interested in buying cars like the Nissan Pao, or other Japanese collectibles? Get 14 days of guest access to Japan’s cars auctions and take a look for yourself.

    And don’t forget to check out these extra photos of this Pao at auction in Japan.

    Nissan Pao at Japanese car auction - front 2

    Nissan Pao at Japanese car auction -rear

    Nissan Pao at Japanese car auction -interior

    Nissan Pao at Japanese car auction - wheel

    Nissan Pao at Japanese car auction - retro stereo


    1968 Datsun Fairlady in the Japanese Car Auctions

    Posted by Stephen On Wednesday, March 9th, 2016

    This has to be one of the best looking Japanese sports cars ever, with the closest rival being the original MX-5 Miata. Along with its Japanese sport scar contemporaries, the Honda S500 and Toyota Sports 800, SR311 Fairlady encompasses the essence of a genuine sports car. Not the bludgeoning horsepower warfare of supercars and hypercars, and not the cubic inch overkill of the North American muscle cars. No, this car is about the fun of driving. The pleasure of a winding road with the top down and the wind in your hair.

    40,000 of these little gems were produced between 1959 and 1970, with this one being one of the latest SR311 configurations that featured a 5-speed manual transmission that replaced the previous 4-speed. With a standard 135 PS engine configuration (in a car weighing only 940KG), a top speed of 120 MPH was attainable, which was quite spritely for its time and represented excellent value for money.

    Let’s take a look at this one that is in a Japan car auction in Tokyo. Here is the translation of the auction inspectors report:

    “Interior C, first registered 1968 (month not stated), five-speed manual gearbox, ODOMETER CHANGED, marked as odometer changed vehicle as this is an old car, fender mirrors, steering wheel worn and has minor cracks, canvas top cut and has repair marks, possibly aftermarket seats, seats torn, rust and corrosion and paint marks underneath vehicle, interior grime and wear, dashboard loose, rust and corrosion in places, corrosion repair marks, scratches and dents and repairs, exterior paintwork cracked on bonnet and on right side sill and on left rear side panel and on rear boot lid, marks as per map”

    Datsun Fairlady SR311 at auction in Japan - auction sheet

    Although it says that it is an “odometer changed vehicle”, this is very common among cars of this age, simply because the seller cannot be hundred percent sure that the mileage is completely accurate. This would really only be possible if there were full-service records available. So in this case as well, the seller is probably erring on the side of caution by marking the car as such.

    There is a reasonable amount of rust and corrosion on this car, so this would be more of a project vehicle. However, it’s not so bad that it is readily visible in the photographs. Take a look for yourself below:

    Datsun Fairlady SR311 at auction in Japan - front

    Datsun Fairlady SR311 at auction in Japan - rear

    Datsun Fairlady SR311 at auction in Japan - interior


    Subaru XV Design Concept Debuted at 2016 Geneva Show

    Posted by Stephen On Friday, March 4th, 2016

    Whether it’s speed or performance boundaries that you’re looking to see redefined or it’s innovative technology and luxury that you’re looking to get your fill on, the Geneva Motor Show is where you’ll find all of the above in one exciting place. This is where leaders of the car industry come to show off their latest and greatest concepts in automobiles and every big car company highlights this week on the calendar as the time to present the most advanced vehicles to the world. Among the featured cars for this year’s March Madness, Subaru had a little something to earn bragging rights.

    Subaru XV Concept Geneva 2016

    For those who don’t remember, Subaru debuted a couple of Impreza concepts at the Tokyo, and Los Angeles car shows last year. The first car was one was a five-door hatch, and the second car was a sedan. However, the Impreza collection also includes the elevated Crosstrek, known as the XV in most other markets. So now at the 2016 Geneva Motor Show, Subaru presents the first certified preview at the high-riding, next-generation Impreza, by way of this XV Concept.

    While the specifics were few, what you see is what you get here. The XV certainly has a more powerful take on the sedan and hatchback models that came before it, in keeping with the Crosstrek’s character. The new concept rides on 19-inch wheels which definitely won’t make it to production, and you can anticipate some sort of boxer four-cylinder engine to drive power to all four wheels.

    All in all, the XV Concept does look pretty decent. However, Subaru has a very long history of making eye-catching concept cars that don’t exactly carry their attractiveness over to production. Nonetheless, the existing Crosstrek has a bit of a rugged handsomeness to it, so let’s hope something parallel occurs when this concept ultimately transforms into a production model in the upcoming year.


    Production Toyota C-HR At The Geneva Show

    Posted by Stephen On Thursday, March 3rd, 2016

    After being on a grand tour for the past two years and then being debuted as a design study at the Paris auto show in the fall of 2014 the Toyota’s C-HR concept has remained prominent on the continent and even managed to make its grand entrance at the 2015 Frankfurt auto show showing off its impressive body to the viewers. Just a month later, this innovative and expectantly trendy C-HR model popped up at the 2015 Los Angeles auto show wearing a Scion badge and a vivid coat of red paint. It was at the Los Angeles show that it was revealed that this brilliant C-HR was a go. Unlike Scion itself, which is now dead. Now the production version has been debuted 2016 Geneva auto show, and it looks impressive.

    Toyota C-HR

    Personally, I dislike the styling of this car’s direct competitor, the Nissan Juke, but this Toyota C-HR blows it away. I know which one I would pick from looks alone.

    It is quite evident that Toyota chose not to stray too far away from their original concept, and will probably impress the masses when they see how they added the low-profile/floating roof to the transition of this production vehicle. Certainly, the entire C-HR is only somewhat different from its original concept form, with very minor variations to the headlamps and the lower front end connecting the smaller wheels as the most noticeable changes.

    According to Toyota’, their Toyota new global architecture (TNGA) which is also found under the newest Prius, it appears that the C-HR, which will have a full hybrid powertrain along with one or more gas-only alternatives.

    The Toyota C-HR was scheduled to be sold in the United States as Scion, but those plans were crushed in early February 2016 when Toyota broadcasted that it would be closing its youth-oriented division. Despite the fact that the announcement wasn’t very surprising, ironically the C-HR’s crossover standing and hybrid powertrain might have certainly helped Scion in crucial market areas where it lacked any product. Now that it is coined a Toyota, the C-HR will be competing with well-known models like the Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3, and Nissan Juke vehicles that made their mark on the subcompact crossover division while the new C-HR was still on tour around the globe in concept form.

    It is anticipated that the C-HR will go on sale later this year, shortly after which I expect we will be seeing them pop up in the car auctions over here in Japan.