Mercedes-Benz offers two vans in foreign markets: the Viano full-size and the Vaneo compact van. Like the VW, the M-B vans feature sleek styling that's inherently European. The larger Viano carries as many as seven occupants and is available in standard and extended versions. Both use the company's 3.2-liter V-6 and put power through the rear wheels.

The compact Vaneo, on the other hand, uses a 1.9-liter four-cylinder engine driving through the front wheels. In keeping with Mercedes practice, even though this model is the entry-level machine in the company's line of vans, it still includes safety features such as brake assist, stability control, and anti-lock brakes.

Naturally, Japanese automakers showed some interesting vehicles in Tokyo. Honda unveiled its home-market Odyssey, which resembles the station-wagonesque first-generation Odyssey we had in the U.S. before the hugely popular van arrived in 1999. The low-slung wagon features three rows of seats and could appeal to van and SUV buyers, except that it's powered by a four-cylinder engine and isn't designed to accept the V-6, something such a large vehicle would need in the U.S. With enough consumer interest, the company might find a way to bring the wagon here.

Meanwhile, the company showed a true van as a concept called the ASM. This vehicle is smaller than the U.S. Odyssey, and officials say the van's styling doesn't preview the 2005 Odyssey arriving in the U.S. later this year.

Toyota showed a new Japanese-market van called the Alphard in hybrid/electric form. The vehicle is nearly as large as the U.S.-market Sienna and rides on the same platform as the Highlander and RX 330. The most unique aspect of the hybrid van was a 1500-watt AC outlet that'll give owners the ability to power a refrigerator from their van during a blackout. Look for this to attract buyers as much as the fuel economy.