Daihatsu´s Japanese production declines for the first time in 8 months…
…but production overseas increased to compensate. And generally sales are down overall. Daihatsu gave up on Europe a few years back so the news that the Copen sportscar is to be revived may not do so very much to improve the sales picture. Still, it´s nice to imagine. What sort of a range does the Copen fit into? There is the Terios hatchback in five and seven seater guise, the Sirion hatchback and the Gran Max van which also comes as a pick-up. That make the Copen something of an outsider in a range of very practical vehicles, but it is still at least as small as the others.
The original Copen was conceived of as a 600 cc vehicle conforming to Japan´s Kei rules but over time it slipped these restrictions and ended up with a 1300 cc. Production ceased in 2012 leaving the ranks of very small and fun sportscars much depleted. Alongside the Honda Beat and Suzuki Cappucino, the small and humorous Copen offered an easy and safe way to have some driving fun; high quality, low speed entertainment if you like.
The revised Copen (dubbed either Robe or Copen-X) is likely to be based on the D-R concept shown a few years back. I would suggest that Daihatsu finds a way to offer the Copen through Toyota dealerships if it can´t return to Europe. Like the Twingo (Mk1) and Nissan Figaro, the Copen has a small but probably quite passionate customer group for whom a Mazda MX-5 is too big and unwieldy. Given the difficulties of high speed motoring I think the Copen offers quite a lot that is not provided by other cars, not least the sort of simple entertainment that pocket-rockets like the Triumph Spitfire and MG Midget offered – without the rust and Lucas electrics. What is different about the new Copen is that Daihatsu are pushing the possibility of switching body panels, allowing buyers to choose from 11 colours. What isn´t clear from the source is whether the revised car is an updated model based on the Copen that stopped in 2012 or whether it is substantially a new car. The article goes on to report that a another version will be launched in 2105 with exchangeable headlights.
This particular bit of news chimes with our recent discussions of speed and cuteness. The Copen and its diminutive and deceased peers, the Beat and Capuccino, provide good evidence that you can design a convincing car even within the restrictions of the Kei rules. The fun factor is so very apparent that I think they don´t need to worry about criticisms related to their lack of toughness. Indeed, I think that it´s only a certain type of insecurity that would lead someone to feel it necessary to point out that these cars are not very macho and not very butch. What they are is a useful example of how to squeeze some fun into town driving, being as they are closer to bicycle size than even a Ford Fiesta. I could, at a push, imagine using a car like this for urban jaunts without feeling encumbered in the way a supermini might. I take my bike because it is light and easy to manage as much as for its planet-preserving qualities. The Copen is almost a bike-like car. The more I think about it, the more I could imagine having one of these. There is space in the boot of my current car to park it in.
Incidentally, Daihatsu shifted about 400,000 cars so far this this year. This was done without halo models, without anything very complex or stunning. It shows perhaps what a remarkable job Alfa has done in deterring customers from what ought to be automotive catnip as these sorts of numbers easily beat Alfa´s.