In recent times, the Tokyo show has been fishing for a new identity as Japan’s shrinking domestic auto market loses its luster as focal point for overseas automakers.
“I think the participation of overseas automakers has declined in proportion to the declining appeal of Japan’s market itself,” Nagata said. “We are concerned about how they view the event.”
In June of last year, JAMA decided to revive the show in 2023 with the theme “Green and Digital” — to showcase the Japanese auto industry’s push to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
But it switched to the “mobility” theme as a more all-encompassing banner.
Under Toyoda’s leadership, the show was pulled back from the brink, after years of sliding attendance and increasing irrelevance on the global stage. The number of international exhibitors dwindled as European and U.S. automakers turned their attention toward China.
At the show’s last gathering in 2019, Toyoda set a goal of attracting 1 million visitors, and the 12-day show finished with more than 1.3 million attendees. That was a 70 percent surge over the 771,200 who visited in 2017, though well below the record of 2.02 million in 1991.
But international participation reached a nadir. The only major global brands participating were Mercedes-Benz, Smart, Renault and Alpine. And participation by Renault and Alpine may have been more a show of solidarity with their Japanese alliance partners, Nissan and Mitsubishi, than a genuine interest in the local market, where both brands are minor players, even among imports.
“As Tokyo can draw 1 million visitors, we hope global automakers will recognize that showcasing at the Japan Mobility Show can boost their brand image,” Nagata said. “Aside from being a business and commercial venue, Japan will try to prove itself as a leading country in mobility.”