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Opinion: Is the Japanese car industry in crisis?

Earlier this year, Toyota's Achio Toyoda made waves when he described his perception that his company was “in a sense of crisis”.

The boss of the world’s second-largest car company was in part steeling financial onlookers for substantially reduced profits – a pattern expected to continue for some time, due to rising costs and fluctuating exchange rates – but, more than that, he was signalling that the pace of change in the car industry presented the risk that today’s mega-brands could be next year’s IBM or Kodak.

On the last point, he might just as well have been talking about the Japanese car industry rather than just Toyota because, for all its historical might, there is a growing sense that it is only just awakening to the challenges presented by, among others, electrification, autonomy and connectivity – a fact likely to be borne out by the number of concepts looking at those three themes at this week’s Tokyo motor show.

2017 Tokyo motor display - complete preview

But while there will be a temptation to celebrate these new ideas as showing off the very best of the Japanese car industry’s innovative –sometimes wacky – streak, the reality is that they are in fact exploring concepts that other car makers showed off long ago and, in some cases, already have in production.

You think that’s too harsh a statement against firms that pioneered hybridisation and set the standard for modern manufacturing techniques and more, including today’s leadership in hydrogen propulsion?

Maybe it is, but consider, too, the scepticism towards pure electric vehicles that leaves all but Nissan among Japan’s car makers now lagging behind. Honda and Toyota’s electric divisions are barely celebrating their first birthdays, and even then only because Chinese regulations demanded that they got on with it. Mazda is pursuing the bold, exciting Skyactiv-X initiative, but you have to question how future-proofed it can be, while Subaru and Mitsubishi sit in the wings – potentially sleeping giants, or possibly just (profitably and, in many regard, impressively) sleeping.

Insight: why China is spurring increase of electric vehicle sales

How some distance and deep will the disaster run? We?Ll get the first solutions in Tokyo this week, however in such occasions ? Especially from a role of relative achievement ? The primary challenge is normally accepting that there's a trouble. Hence Toyoda?S words and, you?D ought to wager, his preference to push for extra urgent alternate by means of stating them publicly.

Tesla is already there. The Volkswagen Group seemingly racing ahead with electrification is one thing, but for Lexus (and others) to be beaten to the punch by the likes of the Jaguar I-Pace is quite another.

VW ID variety to be 'destiny proof' with over-the-air era

Watching how the established players transition – balancing and enjoying today’s profits while pivoting – against how the innovators disrupt, shackled by neither history nor the need to make money initially, is one of the reasons why the car industry hasn’t been so exciting for 100 years. And why, I hope, the Tokyo motor show coverage is going to be especially fascinating.

Read greater

2017 Tokyo motor display preview

Toyota guarantees evaluate after profits drop

Volkswagen overtakes Toyota as world's excellent-selling car maker

Insight: why China is spurring increase of electric vehicle sales

Driven: Skyactiv-X 2019 Mazda three prototype driven

VW ID variety to be 'destiny proof' with over-the-air era

from automobile feed http://ift.Tt/2z27igQ

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