Daihatsu launches new Copen roadster

Interchangeable body panels promise to keep the design fresh.

Daihatsu has kicked off the long-awaited return of its cult classic, the Copen. The kei-class roadster is now on sale across Japan.

The Copen, first seen as the Kopen concept at last year's Tokyo Motor Show, is a front-drive two-seater with a folding hard top convertible. Built on Daihatsu's D-Frame architecture, it consists largely of a structural skeleton frame to which owners can attach different composite body panels, changing the look of the car.

Speaking at a launch event in Tokyo, Daihatsu senior executive officer Hitoshi Horii was quoted as saying, "This is a type of car that hasn't existed until now - a model that the user can easily customize even after purchasing it.”

Horii also said that in the Japanese market, specialty cars such as the Copen see peak sales within three to four months of launch. In order to keep the Copen fresh, Daihatsu will use the D-Frame to release panels periodically, keeping the design fresh. There's already a new round of body designs planned for the fall, and another in 2015.

One of the upcoming designs will feature round headlights and curvy styling reminiscent of the original Copen, built from 2002-12.

To make the most of the the D-Frame, Daihatsu will be launching what is currently being called the X Model this fall, a car similar in concept to the Copen but with a more rugged, off-road stance and functionality. Its body panels will not be interchangeable with the Copen, but Daihatsu will offer a new suite of styles for it.

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