Suzuki teases Microbus-like van for Tokyo

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The all-new Air Triser concept bears a striking resemblance to the Volkswagen Bulli

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The 2015 Tokyo Motor Show gets underway later this month and automakers are busying themselves revealing and previewing planned premieres. We've seen vehicles of various shapes and sizes from Honda, Nissan's idea of what the digital generation might want to drive and now a couple of intriguing concept cars from Suzuki, including a roomy minivan that clearly borrows some inspiration from the Volkswagen Bulli.

Because of its short nose and red-and-white color scheme, it's hard to look at the new Suzuki Air Triser concept and not think of the 2011 VW Bulli Concept, or even the original VW buses, like the Splittie that recently posed with the all-new T6.

That's not meant as a criticism, because if Volkswagen is going to keep giving us Plain Jane Transporters, someone else might as well step in and offer something as cool as the old-school Microbuses. The Air Triser isn't necessarily that immediately iconic, but its shape definitely offers a cooler, more distinct look than the average commercial van box or soccer team-hauling minivan.

It's not just the exterior that makes the Air Triser cool, either. Suzuki calls the AT a three-row compact minivan concept, and it's designed to pack a comfy, flexible "private lounge" inside a modest set of dimensions. When parked, the rear seats can be set up to face each other in "relaxation mode" or configured into a U-shaped sofa in "lounge mode." While lounging and relaxing, occupants can play content from their mobile devices on the built-in digital display.

With all that seating flexibility available from the get-go, the Air Triser is fully ready to follow its spiritual relatives from VW in being converted into a cozy camper van. We could see it easily becoming a mini-camper similar to some of the designs we saw at the Japan Camping Show earlier this year.

If you prefer the authentic Volkswagen bus, or would rather see your minibus in all-electric specification, some good news might be on the horizon. Word has it that Volkswagen is developing a new all-electric bus concept for the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show in January. According to an Autocar report on the matter last month, the new concept will preview a production model and feature battery technology borrowed from the Audi R8 and Quattro concept e-tron models.

Of course, past rumors of a revived Bulli have all led to disappointment, and Volkswagen has a new chairman and more important issues to worry about. In fact, Bloomberg reported yesterday that the automaker is shelving all non-essential projects to deal with the financial fallout of its diesel scandal. If there's one thing that screams "non-essential project!" (from an automaker's perspective), it's an all-electric revival of a decades old van design. Hopes are dropping right back down to Earth.

Back on the topic of Suzuki and the Tokyo Motor Show: The Air Triser will be joined in Tokyo by a smaller new concept car. The Mighty Deck is Suzuki's take on a fun, urban/outdoor-inspired minicar. Features like the retractable canvas top and flexible open load deck aim to "free people to move between contrasting situations and mindsets", such as city/nature and work/leisure.

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