Daihatsu’s UK distributor says it is now more determined than ever to bring the Copen roadster to local showrooms after almost 1,500 visitors to the British International Motor Show “expressed serious interest” in placing orders.

During the two-week show at Birmingham NEC, Daihatsu Vehicle Distributors claimed to have been “inundated” with inquiries about its 660cc turbocharged sports car with a Mercedes SLK-style hard folding roof.

Close to 1,500 show-goers expressed a serious interest in being among the first to own a Copen, should Daihatsu succeed in homologating it for sale in the UK.

Daihatsu Vehicle Distributors technical chief Roy Marshall, said: "The Copen is currently only for sale in Japan, where vehicle regulations differ significantly from those in the UK and the rest of Europe.

"Prior to the Motor Show we were already working to overcome the various technical obstacles preventing our putting the Copen on sale in the UK. Now we are even more determined to find solutions in order to satisfy the obvious high demand for the car."

Should Daihatsu win European Type Approval for the Copen, UK sales could start next summer at a target price less than £14,000 for a fully specified model.

Daihatsu Vehicle Distributors also claimed that, on 'Trade Day' at the motor show, 28 prospective dealers from across the UK expressed strong interest in opening a new showroom for the brand.

This is in addition to the 40 new dealerships that the company has appointed since taking over the UK importing operation in spring 2000.

Operations director Paul Hegarty said: "Dealerships are telling us that they are recognising a continuing swing towards greener and more compact cars. And, whereas most other manufacturers might have one or two 'green' models within their overall ranges, Daihatsu specialises in compact cars, all of which boast leading edge environmental credentials."