Detroit Automakers Snub 2013 Tokyo Auto Show | Edmunds

Detroit Automakers Snub 2013 Tokyo Auto Show

Just the Facts:
  • Detroit's Big Three automakers are skipping the 2013 Tokyo Auto Show.
  • This will be the third Tokyo auto show in a row that has been snubbed by Motown.
  • Once Asia's top auto show and a must-do, the bi-annual Tokyo auto show has since been eclipsed by the big auto shows in China.

TOKYO — Japanese and European automakers already have big plans for the 2013 Tokyo Auto Show. But Detroit won't be joining the party.

American automakers have decided once again on a no-show, which means there will no stands for GM, Ford or Chrysler at the upcoming 43rd Tokyo auto show.

This will be the third Tokyo auto show in a row that Motown has decided to pass on, which begs the simple question, why?

"Imports are a niche in Japan and we're in a niche of a niche," George P. Hansen of General Motors Japan told Edmunds. "So it comes down to a question of resources and how to best allocate those resources."

Ford has a similar take on why it's missing-in-action at the Tokyo show.

"To be sure, there is certainly some significance in participating in the motor show held in a country with a gathering of so many global automotive makers," said Ford Japan spokesman, Katsumi Tanaka.

"On the other hand, in terms of issues such as cost and the show's objectives, there were some aspects of the motor show which doesn't fit with our business scale in Japan."

A Chrysler Japan official has previously said that considering the cost of the show, a more effective use of funds is to go with the Tokyo auto salon instead. The Tokyo auto salon is the Japanese version of the popular SEMA show. This is Japan's livewire custom and tuner show that every January goes a long way to recapturing the fun and spirit the Tokyo auto show used to have.

In today's world, the organizers of the Tokyo auto show have taken a notably more conservative tone, which critics have found to be disappointing and dull.

To be fair to the U.S. importers, theirs is but a tiny footprint in Japan.

In an import market worth 315,993 units in 2012 (out of a total market of 5.37 million units), Jeep was U.S. number one with 4,979 units sold. Ford was second with 3,952 units. Chevrolet sold 1,477 units and Cadillac, all of 1,255 units.

To some Americans, this is conclusive proof that Japan remains a "closed" market yet that overlooks the fact that VW, Mercedes, Audi and BMW all regularly sell tens of thousands of vehicles in Japan every year, as do Peugeot, Renault and Citroen. Sweden's Volvo, one of the long-time success stories in Japan's import market, is returning to the Tokyo auto show this year, for the first time in six years.

Back in 2009, in the wake of the global financial crisis, the German brands made a combined announcement that they would all be skipping that winter's Tokyo auto show (which turned out to be a desperately austere affair, in any case).

However, GM Japan's Hansen denies that the U.S. makers all clubbed together to decide to miss the 2013 Tokyo Auto Show. It was a decision that each company made individually, he says.

After that lamentable 2009 Tokyo Auto Show, when it seemed the show's very existence and future were under threat, the show was successfully relaunched in 2011 and made a triumphal return.

However, Motown will again be absent in 2013 and it hardly helps matters that the Tokyo show press days clash directly with the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show this year.

In the big picture, however, American makers also see a lot more value in participating in the "growing" Chinese shows such as Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou, rather than Tokyo where of course Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Mitsubishi and Mazda et al regularly hold sway.

Edmunds says: Too bad that Americans will be skipping the 2013 Tokyo Auto Show. Will they be missing a golden chance to strut in front of a major world audience?

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