December 8, 2011
Best In Show: Part 2
Nissan designer Francois Bancon continues his tour with the Global Media Center to take a look at the competition at the 42nd Tokyo Motor Show.
Francois Bancon begins the second part of his tour at the Suzuki stand, moving on to Honda and Mercedes-Benz.
Swift EV Hybrid - “So the Swift, starting with a hybrid question, which is not a hybrid, but a range-extender, a series hybrid. Swift is a very successful, good car [that is] successful in India, somehow in Europe and a little bit less but in Japan. And they have to compete using the hybrid when they see Toyota with the Aqua or Honda.
They have to do the same thing and they came up with the idea to use a range extender. You have an internal combustion engine (ICE) powertrain exclusively used to recharge a battery. The car is a normal, rear-wheel powertrain. It’s a smart technology – it’s also an expensive technology. So, I’m not sure how much they’re going to price for this. But the idea is interesting in a compact package.
Q-Concept - The other one that I don’t remember the name of – and it looks kind of strange – is the proximity mobility thing. It’s the third one we have seen in the show.
Everyone is exploring what can be the mobility in a short distance for one or two people – this is a two [seater] – in a kind of urban environment, Tokyo might make sense. The problem is that you have to move the regulation in Japan to make this possible as a car homologation. In some countries, you might have some problem with the safety. So it’s kind of more complicated. But the idea is there. This kind of individual proximity mobility might be a big thing in the future.
N-Concept - This is a kei car category. The most important segment is what we call the high-wagon kei car. Honda was not there. So, now they decide [to enter] because the kei car is about 40% of the passenger vehicles in Japan, and they were not in the most promising category, so they went now back on track with the N-series and they’re going to compete with our Roox, for example, with this car. You know, this category is extremely stereotypical. Basically, your freedom is about 2 millimeters on the length and 3 millimeters on the wheel. That’s it. It’s a box with wheels and you’re done.
EV-Ster - I find it interesting to see Honda starting their EV exploration with a sports car – a very compact sports car. I don’t know the technology they use, but it’s well done. And it’s a kind of renewal of the Honda design. It used to be this mix of efficiency, dedicated to performance, but kind of smart package. No compromise on roominess, but some emotional value. And this is exactly what they did. And I have to say, this is a good source of stimulation for us.
Mercedes and Ducati motorbike partnership – This is interesting because Mercedes is not a bike maker, as opposed to their main competitor in Germany. And they did this collaboration with Ducati and this is just a monster. And this is not by chance that Mercedes is also promoting the AMG series. I think they are pushing this direction to communicate the kind of high level of performance for the Mercedes brand. AMG was in Frankfurt, in Paris, now in Tokyo. It’s a kind of emblem, a kind of direction in which Mercedes wants to position themselves.
B-Class - This is interesting because this is a new-generation platform for Mercedes. This is also the platform for which we have some discussion with them about using some common components. Nothing really new—they just make the B-class better in terms of utility, roominess. The performance remains the same.
Concept A - Close to the B-class, you have the other one, which shares the same hardware components. And this is giving you some direction about where Mercedes is going in terms of design expression. This is going to be the No. 3 or 4 car they will build on the new architecture, called MFA, which is something we’re sharing with Mercedes, possibly in the future.”
Global Media Center