The Tokyo Motorshow was once regarded as one of the major international motorshows, with over 350 exhibitors and drawing visitors numbering over one million every two years between 1979 and 2007 (the highest number ever was 2,108,500 in 1991). But towards the end of the 2000s, the auto industry went through the cyclical difficult times and 2009 saw the event’s stature start to diminish. That year’s show, the 41st, saw just 109 exhibitors with less than half the number of vehicles on display compared to the 2007 event. Major foreign manufacturers didn’t participate and the excess of space was painfully evident while the area occupied was 50% smaller. Attendance also dipped to 614,400 visitors from 1.4 million two years earlier, a reflection of diminishing interest in cars in Japan in some ways.
As a result, the organisers (JAMA – the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association) stopped using the sprawling Makuhari Messe exhibition centre near Tokyo Disneyland which had been the motorshow’s venue from 1989. For the 2011 motorshow, they moved to the Tokyo International Exhibition Centre – more popularly known as Tokyo Big Sight – on the Tokyo Bay waterfront. Although Makuhari Messe seemed much bigger, Tokyo Big Sight is the largest convention and exhibition centre in the country. It covers an area which is 15% bigger than Makuhari Messe although exhibition space for the motorshow became smaller than what it was at the previous venue (though bigger than 2009).
While all the Japanese manufacturers were present, global brands such as Ford and GM were absent this year, Ford having ‘exited’ the Japanese market last year after finding that the potential volumes and market conditions do not make it worthwhile to do business in. However, the Japanese are fond of European cars and all the major brands were present.
It’s clear that the motorshows in China are now of greater significance to the industry but JAMA believes that while the Tokyo Motorshow might no longer have the quantity, it still has much quality and showcases the advanced technologies that the Japanese industry can offer today and tomorrow. In fact, this year’s theme looked beyond motor vehicles themselves and included the various elements of the mobility sector which will redefine the very meaning of ‘automobile’. Thus, for its 45th edition which ended this evening, the Tokyo Motorshow looked beyond the automobile industry in its conventional sense to embrace a broad spectrum of concepts and technologies.