TOKYO - Toyota’s president has unveiled a futuristic concept car resembling a giant smartphone to demonstrate how Japan’s top automaker is trying to take the lead in technology at the upcoming Tokyo auto show.
Toyota Motor Corp. will also be showing an electric vehicle, set to debut next year, and a tiny version of the hit Prius gas-electric hybrid at the Tokyo Motor Show, which opens to the public this weekend.
But the automaker’s president, Akio Toyoda, chose to focus on the experimental Fun-Vii, which he called “a smartphone on four wheels’’ at yesterday’s preview of what Toyota is displaying at the show.
The car works like a personal computer and allows drivers to connect with dealers and others with a tap of a touch-panel door.
“A car must appeal to our emotions,’’ Toyoda said.
Toyota’s booth will be a major attraction at the biannual Tokyo exhibition for the auto industry. Toyota said the Fun Vii is an example of what might be in the works in “20XX,’’ giving no dates.
The Tokyo show has been scaled back in recent years as US and European automakers increasingly look to China and other places where growth potential is greater. Ford Motor Co. is not even taking part in the show.
Toyota’s electric vehicle FT-EV III, still a concept or test model, does not have a price yet, but is designed for short trips such as for grocery shopping and work commutes, running 65 miles on one full charge.
The new small hybrid will be named Aqua in Japan, where it goes on sale next month. Overseas dates are undecided. Outside Japan it will be sold as a Prius.
Japan’s automakers, battered by years of sales stagnation at home, took another hit from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, which damaged part suppliers in northeastern Japan and forced the carmakers to cut back production.
The forecast of demand for new passenger cars in Japan this year has been cut to 3.58 million vehicles from an earlier 3.78 million by the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association.
Toru Hatano, auto analyst for IHS Automotive in Tokyo, said fuel-efficient hybrid models will be popular with Japanese consumers, and Toyota has an edge. “The biggest obstacle has to do with costs, and you need to boost vehicle numbers if you hope to bring down costs,’’ he said.
Toyota has sold more than 3.4 million hybrids worldwide.