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2009 Tokyo Motor Show or no Show?...

... is the question right now on many Japanese minds and not only. The Japan Automobile Manufacturers' Association (JAMA) is apparently reflecting on whether this year's Tokyo Motor Show should be canceled or not, Automotive News informs us. Although at first I thought it's just a supposition made in the context of the current world economic crisis, the news is actually almost as true as an official press release. Except it's not official. Nor is it a press release.

Anyway, Automotive News says that the comment came from a JAMA executive, and they even managed to have a word with Toshihiro Iwatake, who is JAMA's head honcho (read: executive director and secretary general). Interestingly, the reasons for the debate are driven partly because a few “secret” but non-Japanese carmakers are thinking to skip the Tokyo venue in October altogether.

That, AND the fact that some Japanese exhibitors are apparently also proposing a cancelation of this year's Motor Show. "A couple companies are not in favor of organizing the show under these conditions, but that is not JAMA's opinion,” Iwatake told Autonews.

Of course, probably still hoping that some of the carmakers will eventually change their opinion, Toshihiro Iwatake didn't mention who exactly were the no-shows. He did say that a few of “the usual manufacturers” had not registered by the JAMA deadline, which was in late 2008.

Iwatake did specify that all Japanese members of JAMA and all of the German car manufacturers had registered in time... and in an inexplicable courteous way added that even late registrants would be eventually welcomed. So much for Japanese Shinkansen-like praise of punctuality...

So, what do we first learn form the guy's declaration on the matter? Well, for one thing some if not all of the Detroit Three are most likely to shun this year's Tokyo Motor Show. The next is the fact that even there is a good deal of pressure NOT to organize the 2009 edition of the car show, the Japanese still have good faith.

Scheduled to take place from October 21 to November 8, with the first two days reserved for the press, the 41st edition of one of the very few annual car shows in the world is also bound to have a green theme. Tree-huggers and whale-saving lovers everywhere will probably rejoice when they hear this year's Tokyo Motor Show theme: “Fun driving for us, eco driving for Earth.”

Since Makuhari Messe, the show's venue, has to be reserved by the end of February, a special meeting of the committee in charge will soon have to take place. The result of this meeting will decide the destiny of this year's Tokyo car show.

The huge image damage to the Japanese car industry a negative decision might do is highlighted by Iwatake himself, who said: “We think the motor show is a symbol of industrial prosperity. We have to show that our industry is healthy.” That, and considering that the show has scheduling agreements with other big-name auto shows means that the next event would only take place in 2011 at the earliest.

Kind of makes you think if the PR harm caused by the event not taking place is too much to handle for an industry already struck by economic turmoil. Of course, the largest blow would be dealt by the American and European car industry representatives, who Iwatake says might laugh in their faces about this measure, “The Americans and Europeans will say, 'Oh, Japan is sinking and the Chinese are up.'”

Apart from the comical expression Toshihiro Iwatake used, this is no laughing matter, because the Tokyo Motor Show has always been a place where almost everyone brought their craziest concepts and presented technologies we are going to use on the cars of tomorrow.

I guess it now all comes to the decision the aforementioned committee together with JAMA and other Japanese car industry members will take during the following weeks. But wait, that's not all! Even though Japan's Big Three (Toyota, Honda and Nissan) have already registered for the event it's not yet too late for them to pull out, and that would really mean disaster for the land of the rising sun car makers. In terms of public image, naturally...

 
 
 
 
 

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