Posts Tagged ‘shanghai motor show’

Introducing Leahead – China’s New EV-Only Toyota Sub-Brand

Posted by Stephen On Saturday, October 25th, 2014

Toyota Leahead EV

If you had to guess which Japanese automaker would launch a budget-friendly electric vehicle sub-brand in China next year, who’d you guess?

Probably Nissan, right? That’d be a good guess since Nissan and Tesla sold the most EVs in the US last year, and Tesla has already claimed a good chunk of the Chinese EV market share.

Surprisingly, it’s not Nissan, but Toyota. Even as the world’s largest Japanese automaker is moving away from electric vehicles in the US, it looks like they’re embracing them in foreign markets like China. Next year they’ll launch a new marque called Leahead (or Ling Zhi in Chinese), which is meant to evoke the phrase “Leap Ahead”. The sub-brand will exclusively sell economical, city-friendly electric vehicles like the mysteriously unnamed EV Concept from last year’s Shanghai Motor Show (below).

Although… That’s actually not an accurate description of what’s happening, even though that’s what most other auto blogs are reporting around the web.

The folks over at AutoBlog Green were kind enough to contact Toyota directly about their new Chinese project. After all, a new EV-only sub-brand just doesn’t sound like something we’d see from the characteristically HFCV-oriented automaker. A response from Toyota Motor Sales’ communications manager, Jana Hartline, helped us make sense of the move.

2013 Toyota EV Concept from Shanghai

Hartline explained, “Toyota just celebrated the 10-year anniversary of GAC Toyota Motor Co., Ltd (GTMC), its joint-venture manufacturing company in China. And it is GTMC, not Toyota directly, that is the company behind Leahead.”

So, it sounds like Toyota’s association with the new Chinese Leahead EV brand wasn’t really their idea, but rather one that they got on-board with without needing too much persuasion.

Why is an eco-EV JV a good idea for Toyota? Let’s look at the facts:

First, the Chinese government is set to offer significant incentives to EV automakers. A couple years ago the China State Council committed to putting 5 million EVs on Chinese roads by 2020, and just earlier this month they committed to making 30% of all new government vehicles electric.

Second, unlike in the US, low-speed electric vehicles are a hot trend in China. Low-speed means lower manufacturing costs. And as we said, Tesla has already sold their EVs in China with huge success.

With these factors in mind, it’s no surprise how many analysts are claiming that China will be the largest market for electric vehicles in the world within 5 years. It makes perfect sense that Toyota would want a JV partnership to take advantage of that trend.

Rumor has it that we’ll see the first Leahead EV at either the Shanghai Motor Show next April or the Guangzhou Auto Show next November. Either way, the first car is expected to be based on the Chinese Toyota Yaris L.

5 New Toyota Cars and Concepts Unveiled at Auto Shanghai 2013

Posted by Stephen On Thursday, April 25th, 2013

To uphold the Auto Shanghai 2013 trend of automakers recognizing the importance of the Chinese market, Toyota brought an astounding 52 vehicles to the motor show this week. Not all of them will make it into any market outside of China, but many of them will. Unfortunately, among the Chinese-exclusive vehicles unveiled was the Toyota FT-HT Concept, which is the first car we’ll be talking about today.

Toyota FT-HT Concept

First up, we have a flashy new concept called the Toyota FT-HT Yuejia (which means “Happy Family”). It’s a swoopy MPV with a hybrid powertrain – the same one that’s in the Prius. It’s aimed at Chinese drivers in their mid-20s and early 30s who are just starting a family.

What’s really cool about this concept, aside from its design, is the six-seat configuration, which has three rows of two individual seats each. The concept is confirmed to make it to production at some point, although we don’t know when, and again, it will be China-exclusive.

Toyota FT-HT Concept

The Ranz EV Concept

We unofficially heard about Ranz, Toyota’s new sub-brand, late last month. The new marquee’s first concept car was unveiled at Auto Shanghai. It’s name? The Ranz. Thus I give you the Ranz Ranz, a new concept EV for the FAW-Toyota joint venture.

The new Ranz concept is based on the Corolla sedan (in case you can’t tell), and is aimed at giving Chinese buyers an affordable zero-emissions EV.

Unidentified Sub-Brand EV Concept

Another EV debuted at Auto Shanghai right next to the Ranz EV. This one is also from a new sub-brand, but we don’t know its name. All we know is that this EV is based on the Camry, and is the result of a new JV with Guangzhou Auto.

China-Spec Toyota Yaris and Vios

Last but not least, Toyota debuted newly modified versions of the Yaris hatchback and Vios sedan. Personally, I think both of these cars turned out very well, with several distinct features that separate them from their non-Chinese counterparts, like new alloy wheels and reshaped headlights. Especially the exteriors; I feel both updated versions have an improved profile. The interior of both is, of course, very cleanly laid out too.

All in all, Toyota had a lot to say at Auto Shanghai 2013. With a booth occupying 4600m of space, obviously this article doesn’t cover every single vehicle they brought, but hopefully it gives you a taste of where Toyota wants to with the exploding Chinese market.

As always, thanks for reading. Come back tomorrow for a final wrap up of Japanese cars at Auto Shanghai 2013.

Nissan Friend-ME Concept Unveiled at Shanghai Auto Show

Posted by Stephen On Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

Attention all Chinese males between the ages of 23 and 33! Nissan has a new car for you, and they really want you to like it. The worst part? You probably will. Introducing the Nissan Friend-ME, a futuristic almost-hatchback sedan from Japan’s second largest auto manufacturer.

We really knew nothing about the Nissan Friend-ME before it’s unveiling at Auto Shanghai 2013. We had a single teaser image to go from, but it didn’t show very much. You’ll see if you go back to our preview article, all we knew is that somehow this car would make passengers and driver into an equal community.

Perfectly Targeted Towards its Target Market

Now that we can see the Nissan Friend-ME “in the metal”, it’s clear that everything about this concept was designed to appeal to the male Chinese socialite. The design is aggressive and sleek, the interior is futuristic and cool, and it apparently makes riding in the car just as fun as driving it.

Nissan’s press materials confirm the purpose of the Friend-ME Concept. It is to appeal to the world’s single largest market segment, the Bālínghòu, which are the 240M Chinese born in the 1980s. Nissan is particularly targeting men.

François Bancon, Division General Manager of Product Strategy at Nissan, points out that “Bālínghòu males are a huge cohort in the world’s largest market, and they’re now reaching their prime. Clearly, their tastes will shape automotive trends worldwide for decades to come.” In other words, Nissan is getting a head start on the future by targeting this specific market now.

Bancon goes on to say in a video that “[the Bālínghòu] want something that will fit their own individual personal tastes, but at the same time they are in a sharing mood.” Thus, we have the Nissan Friend-ME.

Democracy Through the Oracle-Stone-esque Center Console

I’ll let you evaluate the Friend-ME’s design for yourself (I personally think it’s refreshing); what I’d like to discuss now is the social aspect of the concept.

Bancon makes it clear that the Friend-ME was designed to allow for maximum individual space, while simultaneously encouraging everyone to participate in the driving experience. An expansive center console spans from the dashboard to the rear seats, allowing each passenger access to pertinent driving information, music playlists, social networking and sharing all from one system and screen. I highly recommend you look at the included images to see for yourself what this console looks like.

Nissan Friend-ME
Nissan Friend-ME

Unfortunately, while the exterior design is thrilling and the interior features are innovative, we hardly know anything about specs. This makes sense since specs really aren’t what Nissan is trying to impress its market with. All we know is that the Friend-Me will feature a PureDrive hybrid powertrain with a “modest 2.0-liter” engine.

In the end, I’m very satisfied with the Nissan Friend-ME Concept. I think it’s very well done as far as concept cars go. While I’m sure there will be dramatic changes between what we’ve seen in Shanghai and what will eventually make it to production, I’m excited to see how it turns out.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more Auto Shanghai 2013 coverage tomorrow.

Source: Autoblog, Carscoops

Honda Unveils Concept M, CRIDER and SUV-X at Auto Shanghai 2013

Posted by Stephen On Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

Last week we promised you coverage of Auto Shanghai 2013, and this week we get to start things off with a bang. If you’ll remember from our Auto Shanghai Preview Primer, we’d anticipated two new vehicles from Honda and Acura. But, we were wrong – they brought us three.

As you continue reading, we’re going to quickly go over each of the three new Japanese cars Honda unveiled at Auto China 2013 in Shanghai.

Honda Concept M Minivan

With one the most bulbous front clips I’ve ever seen, especially on a minivan, the Honda Concept M is designed specifically to appeal to the Chinese market. Non-commercial minivans aren’t a very popular vehicle class in China, but with an equally compact and energetic design Honda hopes it can ignite a spark of desire.

If you really want to know more about the Concept M, I highly recommend you turn down your volume (I mean turn it WAY down) and watch the techno-themed preview video below:

If everything shown in the video makes it into a production model, you’re looking at a three-row minivan with sweet features like reclining middle seats, an interactive and graphically enhanced center console, a digital speedometer display, and a generally well-thought out interior space. I can’t wait to see how this one turns out when it finally makes it to market in 2014.

Acura SUV-X Concept

Next up, Honda’s luxury arm unveiled a brand-new small SUV concept called the SUV-X. According to Acura, while the SUV-X will eventually be sold globally, it was tailored for the Chinese market first and foremost. CarScoops noted that this is the first vehicle ever that Acura’s debuted outside of the US, which speaks volumes about the importance of the growing Chinese market.

You can get a much more reasonably volumed preview of the SUV-X below. Unfortunately, Acura says this vehicle won’t see production for at least three years.

Honda CRIDER Production Model

Finally, this is the vehicle that no one saw coming from Honda – The Honda CRIDER. To be fair, this isn’t technically an all-new vehicle, as it’s loosely based on the Honda C-Concept we saw exactly one year ago in Beijing. The vehicle has changed substantially in that time, but I think we’re all pretty happy with how it turned out.

Specs-wise, the CRIDER shares its architecture with the Honda Civic. It’ll feature a 1.8L four-cylinder VTEC petrol engine capable of ~140hp when paired with either a standard or automatic transmission. We don’t have any info on the interior of the car, but we also don’t doubt Honda’s ability to maximize interior space. The CRIDER will go on sale in China this June, and will make it’s way into the global market at some point thereafter.

Let’s just hope it’s pronounced “see rider” and not “cry-der”, as that would be a crying shame.

All in all, Honda had a very good showing across-the-board at Auto Shanghai. Each of these three new vehicles looks great, and I’m sure they will do well in China. I can’t wait to see more of the two concepts, and it will be really interesting to see how the CRIDER performs compared to other mid-size sedans. Either way, stay tuned tomorrow for more Auto Shanghai 2013 coverage.

Sources: Car Scoops, CarScoops, Autoblog

5 Japanese Concepts Coming to Auto Shanghai 2013

Posted by Stephen On Saturday, April 20th, 2013

Well, it’s finally here. Auto Shanghai, the biannual motor show that alternates with the Beijing Motor Show, opens up doors tomorrow. With it comes a whole slew of new Japanese concept cars to ogle over, five of which we’ll cover below.

But first, let’s take a quick moment to review the importance of Auto Shanghai 2013. This is perhaps the highest-impact motor show China has ever seen, at least internationally speaking.


Because now more than ever, major manufacturers recognize China’s potential for growth, especially for Generation Y drivers and luxury drivers. So, the concepts you’re going to see below will fall into one of those two markets.

Acura Crossover Concept

Both Honda and Acura are bringing a brand-new concept to Shanghai. We don’t know very much, but the artistic rendering Acura gave us as a preview indicates a style that fuses the Honda CR-V with the Acura RDX. Current speculation is that the new concept will be the smallest crossover in Acura’s lineup, coming in smaller than both the RDX and MDX. While this vehicle is debuting in China, you can rest assured that a similar small CUV will make its way into the global market eventually.

Honda MPV Concept

Again, much like the Crossover Concept, Honda is looking to take a successful vehicle – the Honda Odyssey – and make it smaller and more dramatically stylized to fit the Chinese market. The preview rendering shows a vehicle fairly similar to the Odyssey in form, but with a smaller front clip and more pronounced exterior lines. It remains to be seen whether this will be a China-only vehicle or a global one.

Mitsubishi Concept G4

We’ve already written about this concept, so I won’t go into great detail here. Basically, this is a budget-friendly Mirage sedan. The show car looks impressive, but underneath all the bells and whistles is an unexciting entry-level car that probably drives great, but that won’t stand out from other manufacturer’s entry-level sedans (ahem, Toyota and Honda).

Nissan Friend-ME Concept

We’ve written about the Friend-ME Concept too, but it’s much more exciting and innovative than Mitsubishi’s G4. Basically, this futuristic sedan is targeted towards a young, social and Internet-friendly audience. We don’t know much, but it will apparently use a multifaceted center console to share information between drivers and passengers. I know, curious, right? Can’t wait to see this one.

Suzuki Authentics Concepts

Last but not least, we have Suzuki making a bold effort to solidify their place in the Chinese market with the Authentics concept. This looks to be a fairly standard sedan as far as show cars and concepts go, but unlike the G4 which is just a sedan-ified Mirage, the Authentics concept is actually new and interesting. I’m sure Suzuki will bring many innovative features to the table to authentically separate this concept from the crowd.

Hopefully this Auto Shanghai preview primer gives you enough auto-goodies to whet your appetite. Don’t worry, there will be lots more to see and read over the coming week, so stay tuned for more Auto Shanghai coverage. Until then, thanks for reading!

Sources: World Car Fans, Motor Authority, Autocar, Car and Driver

Mitsubishi Concept G4 Mirage-Based Sedan Coming to Auto Shanghai 2013

Posted by Stephen On Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

For those of you who don’t know, the Auto Shanghai 2013 motor show is this weekend from April 20 to April 27. As such, we’ll see several new previews this week for what different automotive manufacturers will be bringing to the show. Today we’re going to be talking about Mitsubishi and the Concept G4 saloon that they’ll be bringing.

First, though, we should make it clear that the Mitsubishi Concept G4 will NOT be making its debut in Shanghai, contrary to what you might have read today on AutoCar. The G4 made its original debut last month at the Bangkok Motor Show. But, being that Bangkok is a rather small event and coverage was limited, it would be understandable if you missed it.

Mitsubishi G4 Concept

So, with that slight issue out of the way, what’s the scoop on Mitsubishi’s new concept sedan?

As you may be able to tell, the Concept G4 is heavily influenced by the Mitsubishi Mirage, which is to go on sale in the US later this year. The G4 study is more or less a Mirage sedan, which becomes much more obvious when imagined without all the blue tints and design frills seen in the show car. The G4 is even built on the same RISE chassis (Reinforced Impact Safety Evolution) as the Mirage, and will use the same 1.2L 3-cylinder MIVEC engine paired with a front-wheel-only CVT.

So, what separates the G4 from the Mirage other than its classification as a sedan?

Actually, not that much. The show car in Mitsubishi’s released images looks extremely distinctive, but at its core it has very similar design elements to the Mirage. An abbreviated front clip, large doors, and a straightforward linear design all define both the Mirage and the G4. Furthermore, both cars place a heavy emphasis on interior space and back-to-basics features.

Similarities between the Mirage and G4 aside, Mitsubishi emphasized that one of the most appealing characteristics of the new sedan is its light-weight design. They say that as a light-weight vehicle with a short nose, the sedan will offer drivers “agile and pleasing” driving dynamics.

Unfortunately, the G4 will require spectacular driving dynamics if it’s to do well at all, since the overwhelming response to the G4 has been negative. People just aren’t all that excited about the Mirage, and a sedan version doesn’t make things any better. The Auto Shanghai show car looks good, sure, but the plain version you’ll see on a showroom floor will likely look bland. Put simply, Mitsubishi needs to do something different to stand out from the crowd, and instead they’re just doing more of the same.

Whatever you think about the Concept G4 pictured here, you’ll have to wait until Auto Shanghai to formulate a final opinion, and even then the production model could have some slight changes.

For anyone who’s interested, Mitsubishi will also be bringing their CA-MiEV Concept to Shanghai, but regular readers here have already seen it from Geneva. Either way, stay tuned later this week and next week for more coverage of the exciting Auto Shanghai 2013 International Motor Show.

Sources: Autocar, Carscoops

Honda S and C Production Models Coming to Auto Shanghai

Posted by Stephen On Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

Auto Shanghai is just around the corner, so previews are rolling in full swing this week and next. Auto Shanghai 2013 is looking to be a particularly interesting automotive show because now more than ever, automakers are recognizing the Chinese market as a massive opportunity for growth.

We’ve already covered two new vehicles that will be coming to Shanghai next week – the Nissan Friend-ME and the Suzuki Authentics concepts. Today we’re going to be talking about production models, not concepts, and they’re going to be coming from Honda and Acura, not Nissan and Suzuki.

So, without further ado, here are the vehicles that Honda/Acura will bring to Auto Shanghai 2013:

Honda Concept S

Honda C Production Model

It’s been almost exactly one year since we were first exposed to the Honda Concept C sedan and Concept S compact minivan (below) at the Beijing Auto Show last year. In that time, both cars have been sufficiently tweaked and tuned, and they’re both ready for production later this year.

For those of you who need a refresher course, the Honda C is a China-exclusive family-sized sedan with aggressive design elements. Similar to the Nissan Friend-ME we talked about last week, the Honda C was designed solely by Honda’s Chinese partners. The “C” apparently stands for China, Challenge, and Cool, if that tells you anything. It’ll be exciting to see just how much of the “Cool” Honda’s kept since the innovative concept we saw last year.

Honda S Production Model

Where the Honda C is Cool, Chinese and Challenging, the Honda S is Stylish, Smart and Surprising. This is a hybrid compact minivan with a very futuristic-feeling design, like if you’d fused a Formula 1 with a minivan and a spaceship.

But! That’s not to say I don’t like the Honda S. The compact SUV segment is exploding; why not try a compact minivan? Plus, I have a hard time imagining another Honda hybrid doing poorly.

The Honda S will be unleashed in China later this year, but it’ll make its way into the global market shortly thereafter. We’ll know more about both the compact minivan and the family-sized sedan come Shanghai.

Acura RLX Sedan (again) and NSX Study

Finishing things up, Acura will be tagging along with their new RLX luxury sedan, slightly modified for the Chinese market. They will also be showing off their sleek NSX Study.

As you can see, Auto Shanghai 2013 is shaping up to be quite an exciting event. As a reminder, doors open on April 20, so stay tuned to Integrity Exports for daily updates and more auto news.

Sources: Carscoops 1, 2, 3, 4

Nissan and Suzuki Debuting New Concepts for the Chinese Market in Shanghai

Posted by Stephen On Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

What better way to follow up our coverage of the 2013 New York Motor Show than by turning our attention to the upcoming Auto Shanghai 2013? Doors open to the press on April 20, so over the next few weeks I’m sure we’ll get at least a couple more interesting previews. In the meantime, let’s talk about two new Japanese cars we already know are headed for Shanghai.

Nissan Friend-ME Concept

Nissan is looking to expand their presence in the Chinese market with a brand-new concept called Friend-ME. Nissan’s hook for the new concept is, “Four seats, one mind connectivity”. What does that mean? You’re just as lost as we are. All Nissan tells us is that the Friend-ME will enable information sharing between all vehicle occupants via a “unique center console”.

Nissan FriendMe Concept Car

Will you be able to access Facebook while on the road and “friend” other drivers? That’s only a wild guess, but it’s the best we could come up with from the name.

In the press release, Nissan also made a point to highlight that the Friend-ME concept is the first car to receive “key input by Chinese designers” through Nissan Design China. The car is apparently intended to cater to the “vibrant, young generation in China, one of the most exciting segments in the fastest-growing automobile market in the world.”

Other than the hook and the design source, we really don’t know anything about the Friend-ME concept. Nissan has only given us a vague image showing nothing more than a heavily darkened front clip with illuminated headlights and Nissan marquee.

In addition to the Friend-ME, we know that Nissan will also be bringing their GT-R, Murano and Teana vehicles to Shanghai, all to be shown in their new immersive display booth.

Suzuki Authentics Concept

Suzuki is also looking to expand their market presence in China, albeit with a more traditional vehicle. Instead of any fancy new information technology, Suzuki is simply catering to the most popular automobile segment in China with a compact sedan.

The hook for Suzuki’s new Authentics sedan concept is “Sporty x Elegant”. As you can tell from both the darkened teaser image and the accompanying press release, the Authentics Concept will feature a lengthy wheelbase with a low roof line, along with an ever-so-subtle rising belt line and a slight rear spoiler. Some sources guess that this is intended as a sedan-version of the SX4 crossover. Other than that, we don’t know much.

For any bikers among you, Suzuki is also premiering a new GW250S motorcycle, which will make it into Japan and Europe after being unleashed in China. The GW250S will apparently offer better wind protection with a sportier design.

Between the two concepts, I’m both more skeptical and more curious about Nissan’s Friend-ME. Suzuki’s Authentics looks like a fine car, but it’ll need to do something special to succeed. Either way, we’ll know more in about 3 weeks, so stay tuned for further updates.

Thanks for reading!

Sources: Autoblog, Autoblog