Business

Tokyo Motor Show gets kid-friendly, future-oriented reboot in bid to reverse flagging attendance

by Osamu Tsukimori

Staff Writer

The 46th Tokyo Motor Show slated to kick off Thursday will not just focus on futuristic, cutting-edge vehicles, such as self-driving cars, it will also shine a light on unconventional mobility devices and exhibitions for children aimed at reversing flagging attendance.

The show once enjoyed a reputation as one of the world’s five biggest auto expos along with the Frankfurt, Geneva, Detroit and Paris shows. But it has recently lost its position as Asia’s top venue to the Chinese expos in Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou.

The 46th biennial exhibition, to be held at Tokyo Big Sight convention center and its vicinity through Nov. 4, will be attended by 192 carmakers and organizations from eight countries, down from a peak of 361 in 1995, according to the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association, the nation’s largest auto lobby and the show’s organizer.

Along with U.S. giants General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV — which are again skipping Tokyo’s show this year, BMW, Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, Citroen, Volvo and Peugeot will also be absent this year despite participating in 2017.

The only foreign companies participating this year are Renault SA, Alpine, BMW Alpina and Daimler AG, which includes the Mercedes-Benz and Smart brands.

The 2017 show drew 771,200 people, marking its second decline in a row after drawing less than half the record 2,018,500 visitors logged in 1991.

Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor Corp. and JAMA chairman, said last month he hoped attendance would reach 1 million this year.

People take a look at ultra compact electric vehicles and smart mobility devices at the Tokyo Motor Show on Wednesday. | YOSHIAKI MIURA
People take a look at ultra compact electric vehicles and smart mobility devices at the Tokyo Motor Show on Wednesday. | YOSHIAKI MIURA

To attract more families and younger people, the show has expanded from the Ariake district to the Aomi area so visitors can experience the new mobility devices.

Visitors will be able to test electric scooters and new personal mobility platforms on Open Road, a 1.5-km road connecting the two areas. At the same time, JAMA will be holding a “Future Expo” event at the Mega Web facility in the Odaiba district that will feature mobility vehicles of the future, such as NEC Corp.’s flying car prototype and a motor sports video game competition.

It will also team up for the first time with KidsZania Tokyo, a family amusement park where kids can simulate working in various jobs, including auto-related ones such as car designing or mold-polishing, said a representative from the park at its booth during a media preview.

“We are trying out new things as we aim to raise the number of visitors,” said the KidsZania representative.

Nissan Motor Co. Senior Vice President Alfonso Albaosa presents a concept model called Ariya Concept on Wednesday during the Tokyo Motor Show. | YOSHIAKI MIURA
Nissan Motor Co. Senior Vice President Alfonso Albaosa presents a concept model called Ariya Concept on Wednesday during the Tokyo Motor Show. | YOSHIAKI MIURA

Toyota is showcasing the second generation of its Mirai fuel cell vehicle and an ultra-compact EV, which is slated for release at the end of 2020.

Toyoda said Wednesday that it is aiming to create a future where people are at the center of things, rather than robots or artificial intelligence. “Through evolution of AI, cars will be able to establish an emotional bond with humans the way the horses can,” he told reporters at the preview.

Honda Motor Co. meanwhile has unveiled a commuter vehicle it plans for release in 2020 as part of its goal to have two-thirds of its sales come from EVs by 2030.

Mazda Motor Corp. will unveil its first mass-production EV, the MX-30, while Nissan Motor Co. will show off two concept EVs: the mini IMk and Ariya sport utility vehicle. Mercedes-Benz will be showcasing its Vision EQS, which can go 700 km on a single charge.

The Tokyo Motor Show will open to the general public from Friday. Admission is free for children and students through high school age.

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