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Green cars rule Tokyo Motor Show, but eyes turns to China

Green cars enjoy the limelight at Tokyo Motor Show. But car makers – including Japan's – are increasingly looking to China, India, and other nations with greater growth potential. Could this new focus curb green cars' innovation?

Green cars grab the spotlight, but for how long? Pictured, Toyota Boshoku Co.'s concept vehicle T-Brain is displayed at the Tokyo Motor Show in Japan.

Itsuo Inouye/AP

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Green cars rolled into the spotlight at the Tokyo auto show as Japan's automakers look to fuel efficient technology to reinvigorate growth after tough times.

The showcase for Japan's pillar auto industry was holding its preview for media on Wednesday ahead of opening to the public on Saturday.

Plug-in hybrids and electric cars are centerstage at the Tokyo Motor Show — reflecting both how green cars are growing in popularity and the low profile of foreign automakers at the event.

The show been scaling back in recent years because of the waning importance of Japan as an auto market. Car makers — including Japan's — are increasingly looking to China, India and other nations with greater growth potential.

Ford Motor Co. of the U.S. skipped the show, and General Motors Co. had only a tiny corner booth. Just a handful of European makers such as BMW with a chance at wooing rich Japanese buyers had full-scale booths.

Japanese automakers have had a tough few years due to the strong yen, image problems from Toyota's massive recalls and the large production disruptions from the March disasters in northeastern Japan. But green technology remains a strong selling point for car makers such as Toyota Motor Corp. which pioneered broad consumer acceptance of gasoline-electric hybrid cars with its hit Prius.

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