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News of the Week - October 16, 2002

It's Wednesday, so you all know what time it is!

Special Tokyo Motor Show Preview

Since switching to a biannual (one year of cars, one year of trucks) format back in 1997, the Tokyo Motor Show has become an important launch venue for many manufacturers. Though Mazda doesn't have a huge presence in the commercial vehicle market, they will be maintaining a booth at the 36th annual event coming up on October 29th. And as you'd expect, I have details...

- Biggest news at the show for Mazda will be the unveiling of their new Clean Diesel hybrid system, a common-rail direct-injection (CDI) design codenamed MZR-CD. First application for the new powerplant is the company's medium-duty Titan Dash truck, and Mazda claims that the hybrid setup gives almost twice the fuel efficiency of a conventional diesel-powered truck. No word on whether Mazda will be building a passenger hybrid anytime soon, though the Tribute SUV's cousin over at Ford (the Escape) is slated to receive a hybrid powertrain sometime in 2003.

- Also ready for display are two "Business Concept" haulers, built from the Bongo van and Demio subcompact car platforms. Both vehicles use clever packaging to fit large amounts of cargo, with the Demio even including a folding ramp to get bulky items over the rear bumper. In addition, both vehicles contain the latest in fleet-tracking and navigation electronics, the better to help drivers pick their way through the narrow streets of Japan's big cities.

- Another Demio special, the Demio-i, is a new wheelchair-friendly variant that allows a chair-seated driver to be lifted comfortably into the vehicle. A similar idea will also be embodied in a version of the MPV, but in this case it's the middle row of seats that flips out of the way for a wheelchair passenger.

You'll be happy to know that I've found a source for English-language press releases - the Japan Corporate News Network. However, there are no pictures at JCN - for those, you'll have to click on Mazda's Japanese news site and pick through the jumble.

Once the show opens, I'll give a rundown on news from other manufacturers.

Mazda Minutes

Okay, so it's a fairly slow news week for Mazda. However, you know that I'm just itching to tell you about a new limited edition of the Bongo Friendee van available in Japan! Yes, the new City Runner IV Aero features unique badging, plus a sporty cloth interior with matching door trim and central armrests for both rear bench seats. Four body colors are available, and the sole powertrain combo is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with four-speed automatic transmission.

If you enjoy delving into the myriad details of rolling boxes like the Friendee, go ahead and check out the City Runner's special site. Hope you can read Japanese...

About that Race Report

You know, the one I was going to compile for this week's update? Well, I lied. It would take me the better part of a day or two to go through the point totals for the major sanctioning bodies and pick out all the stats relating to Mazda. However, i did spend some time at the SCCA's page, where I found that Mazdas - particularly the Miata and Protege - seem to have cleaned up this season in many divisions. Check it out for yourself.

I believe I'll devote next week's report to an update on Mazda's American offerings for 2003. But don't hold me to that... :rolleyes:

Duncan Malloch :D
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