By Steve & Tamami Laser
During the past few months, we’ve been fortunate to get up-close-and-personal with Daihatsu’s latest products and concept vehicles at two major car shows in Japan: The Tokyo Motor Show last October, and the Tokyo Auto Salon in January.
Now comes word from Japan that Daihatsu is to become a wholly owned subsidiary of Toyota and essentially be branded as the small car expert of the giant automaker. The announcement was made at a joint press conference in Tokyo on Jan. 29.
Watch Toyota President Akio Toyoda and Daihatsu President Masanori Mitsui in this video of the joint automaker press conference and Q&A session from Tokyo. (video: Toyota Motor Corp.)
While the internet has been abuzz with a flurry of stories about this deal, the best way to learn what was said during the press conference is to watch the video (above with English narration). It features a question and answer session including these remarks:
A: “The Daihatsu brand will of course continue,” said Mitsui. “And it will not continue as is, we will evolve the brand. This may not be a very good example, but my feeling is the following. It’s like the Mini for BMW to become a presence that can provide an added value to the world. We want to grow the Daihatsu brand into a global brand with that kind of added value.”
A: “The Daihatsu brand will never, never disappear, let me assure you of that,” added Toyoda. “As President Mitsui said, it will be like the Mini for BMW. That’s I think the sort of level we should aim for.”
“In the past, the minivehicle, or Kei, there was an age when it was something that people tolerated,” said Toyoda. “If you, for example, take a girl out on a date with a minivehicle she would not stay with you…But now minivehicles are very fun to drive.”
“Now we want to take that one step further and produce the Daihatsu brand and I think we can do it,” he added. “If we can do that, with the Lexus brand and Toyota, I think we should be able to make clear the differences between these three brands.”
What has Daihatsu been thinking lately regarding its future products? Here’s a quick review of Daihatsu’s recent auto show displays in Japan from our on-site reports covered in previous CarNichiWa.com stories. We’re wondering if any of the concept vehicles will be built? (We also include some current Daihatsu models like Copen, Wake and Cast, with potential upgrades and future model variants.)
Daihatsu at the 44th Tokyo Motor Show by CarNichiWa.com
October 2015 – We always enjoy the fun spirit of this small car maker that’s one of Japan’s oldest auto manufacturers tracing its roots back to the early 1900s. While Daihatsu had a brief five-year run in the U.S. market under its own brand name the automaker is still going strong in Japan where Toyota continues to own a controlling interest.
Daihatsu says that its new Nori Ori concept focuses on the issue of “getting in and out of a car,” the first hurdle faced by anyone who uses a vehicle. The high-roof concept with its upright windshield and glassy cabin resembles a passenger bus or perhaps a Tokyo subway car.
Daihatsu targets “the multi-use commuter of the near future,” as it aims to create an easy access compact vehicle equipped with an ultra-low floor, two-way access doors that open widely, and a power slope for a wide range of uses, such as loading a stroller or wheelchair.
With the aid of our steadycam device, we take a walking tour of the Daihatsu exhibit. The car in the cover photo is the Daihatsu Copen, a popular roadster in the Japanese Kei car class. (video © CarNichiWa.com)
Meanwhile, Daihatsu’s Tempo concept presents the idea of “a new genre space-commercial vehicle,” creating a new form of mini commercial vehicle on a small front-wheel-drive platform. The automaker says Tempo could be used as a moving sales vehicle and product display.
Daihatsu says it seeks to enter new markets by taking advantage of the features of its front-engine, FWD layout, such as the ease of driving and getting in and out. Tempo makes full use the flexible floor space, while a large gull-wing door with LED lighting is installed on the passenger side and includes a counter for added convenience.
Daihatsu also showed the D-base, a vehicle that it says embodies the concept of its next-generation compact cars. The “environmentally friendly” car is equipped with an internal combustion engine that incorporates Daihatsu’s advanced e:S technology.
Daihatsu at the 2016 Tokyo Auto Salon by CarNichiWa.com
January 2016 – While this long-running brand had a brief fling in the U.S. market under its own banner, Daihatsu keeps going strong in Japan where it builds mini vehicles of all shapes and sizes.
The Daihatsu Copen is a popular roadster in the Japanese Kei car class. The beauty of its design is more than skin deep since it employs composite body panels that can be removed and replaced with customized components.
Daihatsu introduced several Copen concepts at Tokyo. The first (above) is called the Copen Cero Coupe. We thought the enclosed cabin might take some of the fun away, yet we must admit that it does look quite pleasing in person.
The Copen Robe Shooting Brake (wagon) turns the car into a hatchback for added versatility. Of course, this isn’t the first time this has been tried. Cars like the Pontiac Fiero and Toyota MR2 offered endless opportunities for customization. Nissan also sold a car called Pulsar in the 1990s with a liftgate that could be replaced with a wagon-style shell.
Take a look at Daihatsu’s display in our walk-through video. The green and yellow cars shown here are spinoffs of Daihatsu’s Cast minicar that was introduced last year in Japan. (video © CarNichiWa.com)
Daihatsu showed four customized Cast models. The green car above is called Activa, with an additional sibling (see our video) dubbed Cast Activa Off Road. The yellow car is the Cast D-Sport version, and a white car (in the video) is the Cast Sport Race version.
Boxlike Kei cars epitomized by the Daihatsu Wake (above) take full advantage of Kei car’s height limitations. Honda’s N-BOX remains a top seller in this class. Wake is also sold as the nearly identical Toyota Pixis Mega. Kei car badge engineering is not new in Japan (Toyota owns controlling interest in Daihatsu). Suzuki and Mitsubishi also share their Kei cars with other brands.
Although it’s difficult to see in our picture (above), the in-dash display was showing Daihatsu’s clever Wake ads that still put a grin on my face. Sitting behind the wheel and in the second-row, I’m amazed at how roomy Wake is inside for a vehicle with such a tiny footprint.
News source for Toyota/Daihatsu press conference, associated photos, video and press release courtesy Toyota Motor Corp. Japan
Photos and videos from 44th Tokyo Motor Show and 2016 Tokyo Auto Salon © 2015-2016 CarNichiWa.com
Story © 2016 CarNichiWa.com