THE REAL significance of the Geneva auto show earlier this month may have been Japan's targeting of the superminiclass. Japanese companies are about to shake up a segment that has seen little change in recent years.
The lower-medium class is being transformed by compact minivans and the Mercedes-Benz A-class. New minis like the Ford Ka, Seat Arosa and VW Lupo are stretching and changing the mini segment.
Now the supermini wars will heat up. In Geneva, Toyota unveiled the Yaris, and Honda showed the JB-X. Both will eventually be built in Europe. Nissan revised the Micra and Daihatsu showed the innovative Sirion.
Because of quotas, Japanese carmakers have made only a modest effort in the segment in Europe. But with limits coming off next year they will participate more fully in a class where they are naturally strong.
When creativity stalled in the US mid-sedan segment, Japanese cars like the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry became top-sellers. The same could happen in the supermini class in Europe.