(Tokyo Motor Show 2015) Glimpses into the Near Future at Motorcycle Maker Booths

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Glimpses into the Near Future at Motorcycle Maker Booths

The Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) held the 44th Tokyo Motor Show from October 29 to November 8 at “Tokyo Big Sight” (Tokyo International Exhibition Center in Koto Ward). The event, held once every two years, addressed the core theme of “Your Heart Will Race!”

Participating in this year's Motor Show was a total of 160 companies representing 11 nations, showcasing 417 vehicles, including 75 world premieres and 68 Japan premieres. Among this lineup were 90 motorcycles, 73 furnished by JAMA member companies and 17 overseas manufacturers, including 18 world premieres and 15 Japan premieres.

In this report, we review the significance of this year?s Tokyo Motor Show in the eyes of the JAMA motorcycle companies, the key points for which appeals were mounted by individual motorcycle makers, the three models to which each company particularly wanted visitors to pay attention at their own booth and other highlights. The key sources of this information include press conferences, interviews with booth presenters and other gathered intelligence.

Honda: “The Power of Dreams” ~ The Spirit of Rising to All Challenges
At the start of a press conference on October 28, Honda Motor President Takahiro Hachigo made the following comments: “Driven by The Power of Dreams" Honda has always worked to create new values by converging people?s dreams and our own dreams as creators... Today, I am pleased to be able to introduce challenging mobility products overflowing with the unique characteristics of Honda.”

At the Honda booth, we were escorted around by Mr. Takashi Nakamura of the Motorcycle PR and Corporate Communications Division, who described “The Power of Dreams” as a creed rooted in the principle of products crafted for fun and satisfaction: “The power,” he noted, “to portray the types of dreams geared to expand the possibilities of our lives and activities, shoulder the challenge to realize those goals and bring greater inspiration to people everywhere.”

At the press briefing, the first new motorcycle product introduced by President Hachigo was the“EV-Cub Concept.” This is an electric-motor-powered version of the “Super Cub,” a model described by Mr. Hachigo as the true starting line for Honda as a corporate entity. Since its debut in 1958, a grand total of some 90 million of these units have been built in the world. While carrying on the original vision of the Super Cub as an easy-to-handle and economic motorcycle, the EV-Cub also deeply reflects the passion to realize a product presence “friendly for the environment” and “loved by people around the world for its utility in everyday life.”

The next model profiled by Mr. Nakamura was the “CRF1000L Africa Twin”– a product scheduled to first hit the market in Europe by the end of this year. This is the long-awaited successor to the “XRV750 Africa Twin,” a model developed back in the 1980s that emerged as a repeated champion in the Dakar Rally, the world?s toughest race, before eventually being taken out of production in 1999. Designed along the theme of “Unlimited Adventure,” Honda reinstated this rally spec model at this year?s Dakar run (where it returned to the winner's circle by capturing second place).

The CRF1000L Africa Twin is an off-road product primarily tooled to roar boldly across desert sands and other treacherous terrain. However, thanks to being mounted with a newly developed version of the “dual clutch transmission” (DCT), simply pushing a button on the instrument panel shifts operation into a delightfully comfortable on-road urban driving mode as well. This is truly a breakthrough motorcycle “capable of going most anywhere.”

The third motorcycle highlighted at the Honda booth was the “NEOWING” – a large-sized 3-wheeler equipped with a hybrid system. In the words of President Hachigo: “This is a model defining the new road Honda will be traveling down in the fun dimension of our motorcycle business from here on. True to that concept, it was developed in pursuit of steering feel with greater enjoyment and peace of mindthan ever before.”

According to booth presenter Mr. Nakamura, the move to hybrid technology in a large-size motorcycle like this emphasizes the keen considerations devoted by Honda to enhancing acceleration performance and eco-friendliness. The adoption of the 3-wheel mode can be grasped against the backdrop of the rapid graying of Japanese society. Development of a product, in other words, to more keenly address the needs of riders who want to travel free of worries about a half-ton motorcycle tipping over out on the road.

In summarizing the underlying spirit of the Honda booth, Mr. Nakamura saw us off with the following words: “Honda is a company that has tirelessly committed itself to manufacturing with the pivotal focus on mobility. At this Motor Show, we have set our sights on once again exceeding the world?s expectations, embodying a spirit of challenge destined to carry us above and beyond even the stellar parameters that have characterized Honda over the decades to date.”

Kawasaki: “RIDEOLOGY” ~ The Uncompromising Passion for Satisfying Ride
Kawasaki motorcycles have succeeded in achieving compatibility and coexistence between the contrasting elements of “power” and “gentleness.” At this year's World Superbike Championships, for example, Kawasaki walked away with top honors as both the Personal Annual Champion and the Manufacturer's Title. At the same time, however, in the words of Mr. Youta Ishida, Assistant Manager of the Kawasaki Sales Promotion Group who showed us around the company's Motor Show booth, the Kawasaki concept of “ride” is certainly not limited to the quest for sheer speed alone.

According to Mr. Ishida, the first key principle demanded of Kawasaki motorcycles is “gentleness” enabling users to savor riding with full peace of mind. He added that these machines must also be engineered to manifest the performance envisioned by the rider – thereby offering the capacity to derive optimum pleasure from their operation.

There is an age-old expression that translates roughly as “Unity of rider and horse.” From ancient times, this has referred to the fascinating ability of pedigree warhorses to intuitively sense and react to signals transmitted from warriors in the saddle. The nimble bearing of such stately steeds is also alive and well in the zeal for fine ride in Kawasaki motorcycles. This mission may be said to have evolved into the present-day refined Kawasaki-coined concept of “RIDEOLOGY” (Ride + Ideology).

Likewise on display at the Kawasaki booth was the “Balanced Supercharged Engine.”This supercharged powerplant provides further evolution of the engine mounted in the Ninja H2 and Ninja H2R –models famed for awesome acceleration and top speed over the years. As reported by booth presenter Ishida, the result is the sophisticated harmony of an even higher sense of acceleration and superior fuel efficiency.

To give visitors an idea of one motorcycle genre envisaged by Kawasaki in the very near future, a detailed sketch of the “Concept SC 01 - Spirit Charger -,” pictured mounted with the Balanced Supercharged Engine, was on display inside the booth.

The final model presented in detail by Mr. Ishida was the“Z125 PRO.” Powered by a newly designed 125cm3 single-cylinder engine, this is the lightest and most compact model throughout the Kawasaki “Z” Series. The keynote concept is nimble handling that contributes to greater fun in the realm of sporty urban street riding.

Suzuki: “Enjoy the Fun of Riding”
At the October 28 press conference, Toshihiro Suzuki, Representative Director and President (COO) Suzuki Motor Corporation, made the following comment: “Suzuki will today present new automobiles, motorcycles and technologies packed with potentials toward the next 100 years of mobility for all. The models exhibited at this show are all creative, with uniqueness of Suzuki, which lead to driving pleasure, fun to use, and pride of ownership, making people say WOW”.

Dropping by the Suzuki booth to find out more, we were greeted and assisted by Mr. Hiroyuki Kinoshita, Assistant Director of the Sales Promotion Group. He began with an outline of two concept motorized bicycle (moped) models, reportedly designed for easy and fun operation even by those never having ridden such a vehicle in the past.

The first of these mopeds was the “Feel Free Go!” Among the entire sphere of 2-wheeled vehicles, the general consensus is that bicycles are far easier to operate than motorcycles. Rooted in that mindset, the Suzuki approach here is to bring mopeds as near as possible to the dimension of bicycles.

To realize this, not only is the vehicle?s seat designed in the saddle format used on bicycles, gear changes are also performed on the left-side handlebar grip in a bicycle-like mode. The result is a 50cc “cross bike” (a cross between the key strengths of a road bike and mountain bike), with the slim body powered by a small and light yet powerful engine. While the Feel Free Go! delivers effortless riding much like a bicycle, power far exceeding that of bikes enables riders to expand their speed and activity sphere as they zip about town.

The second model Mr. Kinoshita showed us was the “HUSTLER SCOOT”– a scooter designed to simulate the playful juices of riders and enable them to move along gear for sports and other activities. With that goal in mind, special attention was devoted to storage space and methods. Generous underseatspace, for example, is complemented with rear and side carriers, as well as a removable hard-shelled case that fits between the footrests. Detaching this portable case also enables further storage of tennis racquets or other longer items under the seat (see photo).

On the other hand, Suzuki is famed as the manufacture of the “Katana” and “Hayabusa”– two GSX Series sports type motorcycles distinctive for both aesthetic looks and intrepid performance on the road. For this Tokyo Motor Show, Suzuki also exhibited an artistic object suggesting its upcoming concept for the next GSX high-performance sports model (see photo).

Mr. Kinoshita left us with the idea of this art object as a “cocoon” like presence for Suzuki sports models. That is, a strategic attempt to instill concrete form into the manufacture?s declared devotion to continuing to turn out state-of-the-art sports domain motorcycles.

Yamaha: “Revs Your Heart” ~ Satisfaction and Excitement Beyond all Expectations!
Arriving at the Yamaha Motor booth, we were informed by our gracious hostess Ms. Ryoko Ota, a key member of the Global PR Team, of the booth theme: “Tune into the Harmony of the Yamaha Motor Product Orchestra.”

True to those words, there was a clear sense that the electrically power-assisted bicycles, scooters, motorcycles, leaning multi-wheelers, Recreational Off-highway Vehicle (ROV) and 4-wheel vehicles, along with an autonomous motorcycle-riding humanoid robot unveiling a fusion of motorcycle and robotics technologies on display in that space were performing together in immaculate harmony, while concurrently making the case for the distinguished qualities of their own respective contributions to mobility.

In the “growing world of personal mobility” played out by a diversified range of models, Ms. Ota explained that the fusion of people and machines at increasingly sophisticated levels is harnessed to incorporate technology generating immense joy and excitement. She then went on to introduce three Yamaha models that particularly exemplify this worldview.

The first was the “Leaning Multi-Wheeler MWT-9.” Built as a 3-wheeler model, the MWT-9 delivers reliable road grip and stability overwhelmingly superior to its 2-wheeler counterparts. Outward positioned front suspension forks that maximize bank angle are the key to stellar cornering performance, empowering riders to niftily negotiate long and winding roads with steady successions of tight curves.

The second highlight display was the “PES2” Electric Road Sports Model. Driven by an electric motor means that this machine generates no emissions gases even in congested urban driving scenes. What?s more, the 2WD engineering, in which an additional motor effectively powers the front wheel, boils down to lofty new levels of road-holding and nimble maneuvering. The bottom line is a new and exhilarating sensation in riding, equated by Ms. Ota with seductive feelings of “pure passion.”

The off-road dirt sport edition of this series, the “PED2,” is a rear-wheel-drive unit. Also free of emissions and noise for superb eco-friendliness, this machine musters intricate management of motor torque through cutting edge electronic control technology to generate tenacious super-low-speed riding. Astride the PED2, riders can noiselessly ease into hushed forest environments to enjoy bird watching and other laidback pursuits without creating a stir.

The third highlight that Ms. Ota showed us was a technology exhibit featuring a robot hunched down to pilot a streamlined motorcycle. While there was a natural tendency for the eyes to be drawn to the robot, this display begged recalling of the previously mentioned Yamaha philosophy of “fusions of people and machines at high dimensions.”

To exercise effective control over the complex motions of motorcycles traveling at high speeds, there is a critical need for various different control systems to instantly and accurately kick into action in unison. With its “MOTOBOT Ver. 1” autonomous motorcycle-riding humanoid robot in control, Yamaha has made it possible to roar around racetrack circuits at speeds well above 200km/m without any vehicle modifications for human riders.

Drawing from the rich range of data accumulated through this extensive testing process, robots of this genus have been evolved to levels exceeding those attainable even by top-caliber professional riders, while also making impressive inroads in advanced riding safety know-how, rider-support technology and other pioneering breakthroughs.

At the Motor Show, all corporate motorcycle booths bustled with visitors anxious to get the feel of actually climbing onboard models expressly displayed for that very purpose.

For a rundown of the various products exhibited by each company, please go to the following YouTube page.

The 44th Tokyo Motor Show brought its colorful 11-day run to a close on November 8. The next edition of this gala festival of automotive excellence, the 45th Tokyo Motor Show, is also slated to unfold at the same popular venue of Tokyo Big Sight two years down the road, in the fall of 2017.