Global financial crisis threatens Japanese motor show
14 January 2009

Fears are growing in Japan that this October’s Tokyo motor show may be cancelled, due to the ongoing economic slowdown.

A spokesman for the Japan Automobile Manufacturer’s Association (JAMA), the body that organises the Tokyo show, said a decision on whether the show will go ahead or not will be made in early February.

This year’s Tokyo motor show is currently set to run between 23 October and 8 November, but a number of factors have now thrown the show into doubt.

The harsh global economic climate, Japan’s slumping domestic car market and the soaring value of the yen (which makes the Tokyo show increasingly expensive for foreign makers) are said to be the cause of the JAMA’s problems.

Some Japanese manufacturers, such as Nissan and Mitsubishi, set a precedent of sorts by pulling out of the Detroit show, citing economic concerns.

Now, the worry in Japan is that some of the major non-Japanese brands will do the same for Tokyo.

Japanese domestic makers say they are committed to attending the Tokyo show and want it to go ahead. In a sluggish market (sales fell 5.1 per cent in 2008, down for the third year in a row), the Tokyo show is seen as a vital boost to drive up sales and interest in cars generally.

A spokesman for Toyota said: "We have heard nothing to suggest that the Tokyo motor show will be cancelled. We are still planning on attending." Nissan echoed Toyota's sentiments. "Nissan has big plans for the Tokyo show - if it goes ahead, we will be there."

The main issue seems to be the non-japanese manufacturers. Japan has a small, select and lucrative import sector, usually worth some 250,000 units per year. But that’s rapidly contracting.

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Import figures fell by 37.7 per cent in November 2008 and 30.2 per cent in December, with even the leading German brands suffering; Mercedes and BMW were down 50.2 per cent and 47.7 per cent respectively.

The Germans have already signed up for the Tokyo show, JAMA says, but some other (as yet unspecified) brands haven’t.

Peter Nunn

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