In Review: 2013 Tokyo Motor Show

The 43rd Tokyo motor show was held again this year in Odaiba on a perfect autumnal day. Since the last show, Japan has gone through troublesome times, from tsunamis to nuclear meltdowns, to political and economic turmoil. And while the last show disappointed with half empty halls, this show promised to be different.

With over 900,000 visitors this year, the Tokyo motor show has proven to still be a crowd-puller as well as a national source of pride. But is this show still relevant on the global stage?

While some believe this answer to be no, most people can still agree that Tokyo, like Geneva, is one of those special shows that promises something a little crazy and different from the general European and American standardisation. For one thing, the general impression was a sense of positivity — the organizers quoted a satisfaction rating of 90.1% — and this is seen in the organization, the stands and the manufacturers themselves promoting the event.

That the Japanese car industry has seen resurgence in sales since 2011 is no surprise. People needed new wheels after their car was swept away, flooded or otherwise destroyed. But while the local market is buoyed by these sales, the show itself has lost international appeal.

Perhaps the most telling indication that the Tokyo motor show’s relevance has dwindled in the global marketplace was the major absence of true high-end luxury. The higher echelons of the automotive world were nowhere to be seen.

BMW Group’s ultra luxury Rolls-Royce brand didn’t have a stand at the show, and neither did Bentley, Bugatti or Lamborghini. Ferrari also wasn’t present despite a strong following in Japan. Even the flagship Range Rover wasn’t shown; Land Rover instead launched the Sport model in a trend following red. Porsche previewed their Macan for the first time, but not their awe-inspiring 918.

Of the international carmakers that did have a presence at the show, many rented out a small space with a limited number of models. This only served to boost local carmaker’s stands, but the presentation of cars that should demand more attention were seriously ignored: Honda placed their near production NSX on a floor turntable from the 1980s with no support, and Lexus chose to display the last of the LF-As at the end of the stand.

Nissan at least previewed the Nismo GT-R at the top floor of their stand in matte stealth gray, completing a line up of Nismo products and further reinforcing their brand.

Of course, out of all the concepts on show, we have our favorites and have high hopes that they make it through to production. But Japanese OEMs have to continue to improve and innovate in all areas from general design taste to presentation to keep and expand their share. Otherwise one or more of their neighbors may just ‘out-Japan’ the Japanese and make it truly desirable, and that would be shame.


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