Walking The Tokyo Motor Show With Nissan's Enfant Terrible, Part Deux

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

Yesterday, you had your private tour of the Tokyo Motor Show, and you could not find a more competent and entertaining tour guide than Nissan’s head designer Francois Bancon. (Officially, „Deputy Divisional GM for Product Strategy.”) The former Renault man has seen the world. He was a Frenchman of the first hour at Nissan.

If you want to see the Japanese market through European eyes, then please tag along for part deux of the tour, where Bancon talks about Suzuki, Honda, and Daimler. Listen closely to what Bancon says about Daimler. Renault/Nissan and Daimler have an alliance, and Bancon knows where it is heading

Executive summary for the video-impaired:

Bancon on Suzuki’s Swift EV Hybrid

“The Swift is not a hybrid, but a range-extender, a series hybrid. Swift is a very successful, a good car that is successful in India, somehow in Europe and a little bit less in Japan. You have an internal combustion engine powertrain exclusively used to recharge a battery. The car is a normal, rear-wheel powertrain. It’s a smart technology – it’s also an expensive technology. So, I’m not sure how much they’re going to price for this. But the idea is interesting in a compact package.”

Bancon on Honda’s N-Concept:

“This is a kei car category. The most important segment is what we call the high-wagon kei car. Honda was not there. So, now they decide to enter because the kei car is about 40% of the passenger vehicles in Japan, and they were not in the most promising category, so they went now back on track with the N-series and they’re going to compete with our Roox. It’s a box with wheels and you’re done.”

Bancon on the Mercedes and Ducati motorbike partnership:

This is interesting because Mercedes is not a bike maker, as opposed to their main competitor in Germany. And they did this collaboration with Ducati and this is just a monster. And this is not by chance that Mercedes is also promoting the AMG series. I think they are pushing this direction to communicate the kind of high level of performance for the Mercedes brand. AMG was in Frankfurt, in Paris, now in Tokyo. It’s a kind of emblem, a kind of direction in which Mercedes wants to position themselves.”

Bancon on the Mercedes B-Class:

“This is interesting because this is a new-generation platform for Mercedes. This is also the platform for which we have some discussion with them about using some common components. Nothing really new—they just make the B-class better in terms of utility, roominess. The performance remains the same.”

Bancon on the Mercedes Concept-A:

Close to the B-class, you have the other one, which shares the same hardware components. And this is giving you some direction about where Mercedes is going in terms of design expression. This is going to be the No. 3 or 4 car they will build on the new architecture, called MFA, which is something we’re sharing with Mercedes, possibly in the future.”

There were no American makers at the Tokyo Motor Show, which prevented Bancon from saying good things about Americans.

Join the conversation
  • Friedclams Friedclams on Dec 08, 2011

    I'm not a professional car stylist, but but man those new Mercedes-Benz are homely. And the tail lights are aping Audi! Somehow trying to co-brand Mercedes with Ducati seems off-key to me. Despite wishful thinking, Mercedes does not represent, nor should it try to co-opt, raw (Italian!) style and performance. What are they really trying to say here? He's right to laud the Honda EV, that's an elegant design.

    • Philadlj Philadlj on Dec 08, 2011

      Styling-wise, I like where BMW has come since dumping Bangle far more than I like what Benz is doing to their lineup. Mercedes are taking more and more from 1990s Pontiac style - extraneous bulges, vents, and cladding galore - which is fine...for 1990s Pontiac.

  • GS650G GS650G on Dec 08, 2011

    No Americans at TMS this year? That's a surprise given the overseas expansion of GM and the lofty goals all three have to increase share worldwide. Didn't FIAT bring any of their new Chrysler jewels to TMS?

  • Analoggrotto Only allow Tesla drivers to race, we are the epitome of class and brilliance.
  • Wjtinfwb When my kids turned 16 and got their Operators, we spent $400 to send both (twins) to 2 driving schools. One held by the local Sherriff was pretty basic but a good starter on car control and dealing with police officers as they ran the school. Then they went to a full day class in N Atlanta on a racetrack, with the cars supplied by BMW. They learned evasive maneuvers, high speed braking, skid control on a wet skid pad and generally built a lot of confidence behind the wheel. Feeling better about their skills, we looked for cars. My son was adamant he wanted a manual, Halleluiah! Looking at used Civics and Golf's and concerned about reliability and safety, I got discouraged. Then noticed an AutoTrader adv. for a new leftover '16 Ford Focus ST six-speed. 25k MSRP advertised for $17,500. $2500 above my self-imposed limit. I went to look, a brand new car, 16 miles on it, black with just the sunroof. 3 year warranty and ABS, Airbags. One drive and the torquey turbo 2.0 convinced me and I bought it on the spot. 7 years and 66k miles later it still serves my son well with zero issues. My daughter was set on a Subaru, I easily found a year old Crosstrek with all the safety gear and only 3k miles. 21k but gave my wife and I lots of peace of mind. She still wheels the Subaru, loves it and it too has provided 7 years and 58k miles of low cost motoring. Buy what fits your budget but keep in mind total cost over the long haul and the peace of mind a reliable and safe car provides. Your kids are worth it.
  • Irvingklaws Here's something cheaper, non-german, and more intriguing...
  • Wjtinfwb Happy you're loving your Z4. Variety is the spice of life and an off-beat car like the Z4 intrigues me as well. More than anything, your article and pictures have me lusting for the dashboards of a decade ago. Big, round analog gauges. Knobs and buttons to dial up the A/C, Heat or Volume. Not a television screen in sight. Need to back up? Use the mirrors or look over your shoulder. If your Z4 had the six-speed manual, it would be about perfect. Today's electronified BMW's leave me ice cold, as do the new Mercedes and Audi's with their video game interiors. Even a lowly GTI cannot escape the glowing LED dashboard. I'm not a total luddite, Bluetooth streaming for the radio would be nice and I'd agree the cooled seats would be a bonus on a warm day with the top down. But the Atari dashboard is just a bridge too far for me.
  • Craiger Honestly I was incredibly disappointed by the lack of steering feel. I dropped off my 530 at the dealer in New Jersey and picked up the Z. Driving all of my familiar roads I was just shocked at how much info wasn't coming through the wheel. Because of that I was never able to push the Z like I did the 530.