The Tokyo motor show, once one of the most powerful and fabulous auto extravaganzas on earth, seems to be on the ropes.

Like Geneva, Frankfurt and Detroit, Tokyo has long been on the A-list show circuit but this year persistent, nagging rumours have dogged the show.

Would it still go ahead in October as planned, given the ongoing world economic meltdown and big local competition from Shanghai? And even if Tokyo did get the green light, who would show up?

We had confirmation from JAMA, the organisers, a while back that yes, the 41st Tokyo show was still on but given the current circumstances, the guest list might perhaps be shorter than usual.

Today came the bombshell news from Germany that Mercedes-Benz, BMW and the Volkswagen Group have collectively decided to give the show miss: a stunning about-face, because the German premium brands dominate Japan’s lucrative import market and hell would freeze over before they pulled out of Tokyo, or so you would think.