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Jeep® Wrangler at the Tokyo Motor Show

Jeep® Wrangler at the Tokyo Motor Show

The 44th Tokyo Motor Show was held from October 29 to November 8 at Big Sight in Ariake, Koto-ku. The theme “Your heart will race” attracted 160 participating companies from 11 countries.

Some of the best-known brands were present, including Honda, Lexus, Jaguar, Porsche, Nissan, Volkswagen, Subaru, Mitsubishi, and Land Rover.

Jeep®, when still part of the Chrysler Group LLC, made its last appearance at the event in 2007. That was the last time the floors of the Tokyo Motor Show were graced by the “Big Three” from Detroit—General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler.

Of the 417 vehicles that were exhibited, 75 were world premieres and 68 were premieres in Japan. Some 812,000 people attended the show over 11 days.

US BRAND RETURNS
For the first time in eight years, a manufacturer from the United States was back in force at the show, namely Italian–American automobile maker FIAT Chrysler Automobiles (FCA).

Established in 2014, the company is a merger of FIAT S.p.A and Chrysler LLC.

Speaking to The Journal, President and CEO of FCA Japan Ltd. Pontus Häggström explained the reason for the company’s return to the show in Tokyo.

He also touched on how FCA remains competitive in Japan, where the market for imported cars has been challenging.

“First of all, we are a much bigger company now. We are two and a half times as big as we were back then. We are a more relevant player in the import industry,” Häggström said.

Moreover, having gone through an integration process and created a single company with iconic brands, it was the right time, Häggström added, for FCA to return to the motor show.

With a number of new models just hitting the market, the motor show seemed a good opportunity to showcase them, Häggström said.

Alfa Romeo Giulietta (front) and Alfa Romeo 4C Spider at Tokyo Motor Show

Alfa Romeo Giulietta (front) and Alfa Romeo 4C Spider at Tokyo Motor Show

Four brands—and eight models—represented FCA at the show. The newly unveiled FIAT 500X, a small SUV; the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider and Alfa Romeo Giulietta, both sports cars; the Jeep® Renegade, a small SUV launched in September, and Jeep® Wrangler; and the Abarth 695 Biposto and Abarth 595.

Noticeably absent from the FCA lineup was Chrysler. Häggström put its absence down to simple logistics.

“It was simply a matter of space that we had here,” he explained. “It is what it is. And we didn’t want to compromise, and to make each stand smaller. So we opted [for] the four largest brands.

“But,” he added, “Chrysler is definitely an important part of our family. And, we are launching the facelift Chrysler 300 in early November.

Looking ahead, Häggström said FCA would gradually increase its offerings in Japan, with Jeep® and FIAT’s presence growing by a couple of new models.

Abarth will also see expansion in this market.

Further, the company has a massive push for Alfa Romeo “just around the corner”; eight new models are to be launched over four years, including in Japan.

With a proactive social media marketing campaign and expanded dealer network in the country, Häggström was upbeat about FCA’s prospects here.

“People are looking for authenticity, for originality; they’re looking for something new, and I think our brands represent that. [The new models offer] something different in the marketplace.”

FIAT 500X at the Tokyo Motor Show

FIAT 500X at the Tokyo Motor Show

WORLD FIRSTS
With 75 world premieres, automobile fans were spoilt for choice at this year’s motor show. One of the makers unveiling a new brand was ALPINA Burkard Bovensiepen GmbH + Co. KG.

In an exclusive for The Journal, Nico Roehreke, president, Nicole Group, which is the sole sales agent for ALPINA in Japan, explained why it was important for the carmaker to stage world premieres in Tokyo.

“This year is the 50th anniversary of ALPINA,” Roehreke began by saying, “and it was important to show something very special on this occasion.

“And on [this special occasion], ALPINA decided to produce two limited edition models: both have the same engine—600 horsepower, 800 newton meter—[which make them] very powerful.”

One of the new models is the B5 B-Turbo, which is based on the BMW 5 Series, and the other is the B6 B-Turbo, which is based on the BMW 6 Series.

For 50 years, ALPINA and BMW have had a unique relationship, he said, where the larger manufacturer, BMW, has allowed the smaller one, ALPINA, to become an independent manufacturer.

Beginning with sales of only one car a year in Japan 36 years ago, by 2014 ALPINA was selling 425 cars a year in the country, which is about a quarter of its world production, Roehreke explained.

In terms of market share, Japan is one of the company’s largest customers.

Andreas Bovensiepen, proprietor sales and marketing at ALPINA, shared similar sentiments. Speaking about the event, Bovensiepen said, “We at ALPINA in Germany develop the BMW Alpina automobiles.

The Tokyo Motor Show is very important because the Japanese customer [pays] a lot of attention to detail, and we have the finest craftsmanship, special interiors with the finest leather, a lot of luxury, and state of the art techniques. Japanese customers [appreciate this].”

With increasing market share and new products in the pipeline, both Roehreke and Bovensiepen were optimistic about the future, saying everyone at the show was upbeat, and that there was a lot of momentum in the market.

SPORTY CONCEPTS
Besides the limited edition models, two other themes stood out at this year’s motor show: sports cars and concept cars. Both Audi and Peugeot had strong representations in the sports car sector, with the latter seeking to increase its presence in Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya.

A 24-Hours of Le Mans endurance race winner on three occasions, including in 2014, Audi’s R18 has spearheaded developments at the company, according to Satoshi Hirano, product marketing specialist at Audi Japan K.K.

The company also showcased its R8, a mid-engine, 2-seater supercar, which is as close as it gets to a top-end racing car that is allowed on the roads.

With ceramic breaks and carbon [fiber] exterior [parts], the R8 was a “good example of technology that has been [transferred] from the racing world [to a road car],” Hirano explained.

Making its debut in 2007, more than 500 units of the R8 have been sold in Japan, he said, a remarkable achievement for a car in a segment where the competition includes Ferrari and Lamborghini.

The greatest buzz at this year’s motor show, however, was perhaps caused by the Mazda RX Vision and the Mercedes-Benz Vision Tokyo.

If the number of fans that stood in long lines to see both cars can be taken as a measure of success, then this bodes well for the future, when concept cars can be expected to take another leap forward.

The next Tokyo Motor Show is scheduled for fall 2017.