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2012 Tokyo Auto Salon January 24, 2012

Posted by Dru in Japan, Tokyo.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Please venture on over there to read “2012 Tokyo Auto Salon” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-M4

Last week I had written about going to the Tokyo Motor Show at the end of 2011.  In January 2012, a second motor show of the season called the Tokyo Auto Salon is held.  This is a very different car show compared to the Tokyo Motor Show.  The Tokyo Motor Show is a typical auto show that focuses on new cars and concepts from the major car manufacturers.  The Tokyo Auto Salon is a tuner car show that is similar to the SEMA show.  For those who are unfamiliar with the auto industry, a tuner car is any car that has been modified from its original form.  This can be anything from upgrading engine parts, changing the paint or any other part of the car.  It can be very subtle to very crazy.  The Tokyo Auto Salon is the best way to see all of the potential craziness people can do to their own cars.

The first thing to understand about visiting the Tokyo Auto Salon is to know where to go.  The Tokyo Auto Salon is held in Makuhari Messe in Makuhari, Chiba.  It is one of the most famous convention centres in Tokyo with concerts and various trade shows being held at all times of the year.  Due to the layout and cheap rent relative to Tokyo Big Sight makes this a very attractive location for trade show organizers.  The Tokyo Auto Salon is a large show that encompasses the main 8 halls as well as a small exhibition outside.  While they don’t make use of the entire facility, they made use of a huge space nonetheless.  Compared to the Tokyo Motor Show, it felt somewhat smaller, yet more tiring.  The show itself has a lot more to see and it is all crammed into a somewhat smaller space than the Tokyo Motor Show.  There are relatively less people at the Tokyo Auto Salon but with the area being more cramped makes getting around the show floor difficult.  When visiting the Tokyo Auto Salon, like the Tokyo Motor Show, I highly recommend going early and being as patient as possible.

As I mentioned, the Tokyo Auto Salon is very different to the Tokyo Motor Show.  It focuses on tuner cars.  The entire Auto Salon in 2012 was loosely divided into sections.  There were the custom car areas, the manufacturer custom car division, accessories, sound systems, paint, and custom car displays.  While there are many sub-sections in each area, they generally kept close to their theme.  All of the major Japanese aftermarket tuners were at this show.        Many of the well-known Japanese aftermarket companies such as VeilSide, Tommy Kaira, and HKS were present at the show.  Wheel and tire manufacturers such as Bridgestone, Yokohama, BBS, and Rays were also present.  You could easily spend hours just visiting these booths to see what new and innovative products they had.  Each company had their own theme.  HKS was very much performance based while VeilSide was all about looks.  The major Japanese manufacturers had their own booths as well showcasing the products of STi, GD, Nissmo and others.  These names may not seem very familiar but companies like STi stand for Subaru Tecnica International.  They are subsidiaries set up by their parent companies to be somewhat independent but loyal to their parent company.  In fact, most of the companies were fairly loyal to one or two manufacturers.  RE Amemiya is a well-known tuner company that is known for their ability to tune Mazda RX-7s and RX-8s.  It provided a lot of variety into the designs of each car that can be both a blessing and a curse.

The other aspect of the show is to showcase individual cars.  At the Tokyo Auto Salon, some of the aftermarket companies brought cars to be judged.  Other individuals from around Japan also brought their cars to be put on display.  Most of the cars on display in the general area were street legal.  By far the most memorable was one by NATS (Nihon Auto College).  It is a school that teaches the students how to fix and modify cars.  They modified a Lexus SC430 (SoarerZ40 in Japan) to be a modern take on the original DeLorean from the “Back to the Future” movies.  It was a work of art and craftsmanship that was nearly unmatched in the entire show.  There were other great examples of their work that was present in the auto show but that one still sticks out in my mind.  NATS is a great college that probably doesn’t get much attention overseas.  It is a very creative group of students and teachers working together like a master and their apprentices.  In fact, I would say that most of the companies at the show acted in a very similar way.  From my very limited knowledge of the aftermarket industry, a lot of it is art with a healthy dose of mechanics.  With enough time and money, you could create anything you wanted but you still need the ideas to make something good.

One other aspect of the show is the women.  No auto show would be complete without having beautiful women posing in front of the expensive cars.  The Tokyo Motor Show was the same yet very different.  The women at the Tokyo Motor Show had to either fit in with the theme of the manufacturer.  Many times you would see women in the strangest costumes just to fit the theme.  At the Tokyo Auto Salon, that seemed to be less apparent.  Most of the women at the show were there to get as many people to their booths.  You could tell which booth had a woman modeling by the crowds surrounding them.  If there was a large crowd, it was highly likely that there was a woman there.  It was a bit sad as the most beautiful women, rather sexy looking, were getting the most attention.  The women who dressed in a regular way or those who didn’t go the extra mile to look beautiful or sexy didn’t get large crowds of men with cameras in front of them.  It is an unfortunate part of life that men usually think predictably.  Each booth that had girls had a slightly different taste but in general.  When you see a few booths, you have basically seen all of the girls as they all have girls that are differentiated by the colour of their clothes and a little difference in taste or style but generally it is similar and gets numbing after a while.

There are several final thoughts I have about the show itself.  My first thought is that it was cramp and crowded the entire time.  At the Tokyo Motor Show, I had a lot more energy to see the entire show whereas at the Tokyo Auto Salon, after an hour or so I was exhausted.  I would also say that the types of people that went to the show were different.  The Tokyo Motor Show is geared towards the average person.  I saw more families at the Motor Show compared to the Auto Salon.  I also saw more young people and “gangsters” at the Auto Salon.  While I would not say that they are gangsters, some of them did fit the bill in terms of style.  There were also more camera geeks who would do anything to push their way forward to get dozens of photos of the same girl.  It was annoying and difficult to manage.  For those who love fixing cars and seeing tuners, I highly recommend visiting the Tokyo Auto Salon.  In fact, you might enjoy it a lot more.  Unfortunately, since it is a tuner crowd, expect to see a plethora of Nissan GT-Rs, Toyota Prius’, and Mazda RX7s.  It is an unfortunate reality that domestic cars will get more attention as it is cheaper to buy a domestic car than an imported car and easier to get parts for it.  Either way, there are some great cars to see and if I had the time and patience, I would go for a second day as well.

2012 Tokyo Auto Salon is part of a series of posts about various car and bike shows in Tokyo.  To read more about the other car and bike shows, please follow the links below:

Information:

Tokyo Auto Salon:  http://www.tokyoautosalon.jp/

NATS (Blog with Tokyo Auto Salon information):  http://www.nats.ac.jp/pc/as/ebizo/index.php?day=20120114

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2011 Tokyo Motor Show January 17, 2012

Posted by Dru in Japan, Tokyo.
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Author’s Note:  Dru’s Misadventures has moved to HinoMaple.  Plesae venture on over there to read “2011 Tokyo Motor Show” complete with photos.  http://wp.me/p2liAm-LT

In December of 2011, I had the luxury to head to the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show.  It is a regular pilgrimage for me to go and see this event.  The Tokyo Motor Show has been held every second year since 2005.  Prior to 2005, it was held every year, however one year was dedicated to passenger vehicles and the next was dedicated to commercial vehicles.  Since 2005, they combined both shows into one large event.  The last Tokyo Motor Show was in 2009 and it was at the height of the financial crisis that started in 2008.  While a lot of the pain of the financial crisis had subsided a lot, most of the planning for the 2009 show had to occur in the beginning of the 2009 and a lot of manufacturers pulled out of the show citing financial problems and a declining relevance of the Tokyo show itself.  The 2011 show had a very different feeling and it is debatable whether things got better or worse.

The 2011 Tokyo Motor Show had moved from its recent traditional home of Makuhari Messe in Chiba to Tokyo Big Sight in Odaiba.  It was a bit of a shock for me to hear that, but at the same time I was very happy to hear it.  I don’t normally enjoy heading out to Makuhari Messe as it feels very far away.  Odaiba is still within Tokyo and there is a lot to do in the area.  Makuhari is a somewhat isolated area that is famous for the convention hall, baseball stadium, and outlet mall but not much else.  In 2005, the largest show I attended, it occupied all of the main halls in Makuhari Messe.  This created over 70,000 square metres of exhibition space.  In 2009, they only occupied the main halls with over 54,000 square metres of space.  It was a very noticeable difference that year.  For 2011, they used all of Tokyo Big Sight for roughly 80,000 square metres of exhibition space.  I couldn’t completely verify the numbers for Tokyo Big Sight but I thought it was a lot smaller than that.  It is a large convention hall regardless and it still took me nearly a full day to see everything.

The theme of the 2011 Motor Show was “Mobility can change the world”.  On the Tokyo Motor Show website, they say the motto shows how technology developed in cars and other vehicles can help change the world for the better.  Whereas the typical internal combustion engine has been derided as a harmful invention for the environment, the organizers of the show wanted visitors to understand how the various manufacturers were trying to change people’s perceptions.  In 2009, the motto was “Fun Driving for Us, Eco Driving for Earth”.  This is a bit more fitting as they are explicitly talking about the new green technology that most of the manufacturers were trying to promote.  While the 2011 show did have a heavy “green” theme to it, it also had a very strong theme that things will change in the future.  All of the manufacturers in attendance brought the standard set of concept vehicles, new vehicles, and displays of technology.  Upon reflecting on the exhibits I visited, there did appear to be a bit more emphasis on technology at this show compared to past shows, but it could also be a bit of a bias on my part after researching this post and reflecting on what I saw.
The 2011 show was most notable for its return to Tokyo, as well as the return of a few foreign manufacturers.  In 2009, a lot of the manufacturers pulled out leaving the show nearly crippled.  This time, enough had returned to create a better balance, but on the whole most of the exhibits were Japan based manufacturers.  In fact, the Toyota group took up an entire hall on their own displaying the various products from Daihatsu, Lexus, and of course Toyota.  All of the manufacturers brought various new cars as well as concepts however the area seemed to be more spacious.  I was lucky enough to attend the show on a weekday, but it was still as busy as ever and very hard to get around.  It wasn’t very enjoyable trying to fight with people trying to take photos but that is the life of those who can’t go to the show on press days.

Comparing this show to the past shows I attended, I would say that things are similar, yet different.  I was happy that the show was back in Tokyo, rather than still being in Chiba.  I was also happy that I could go on a weekday and see the various new cars.  Unfortunately, there weren’t many world premier cars at the show.  The relevance of the Tokyo Motor Show is decreasing each year and I fear that the ability to see cars for the first time in person before most of the world will be rarer and rarer.  With China and India vying for greater importance in the automotive world, Japan will be nothing more than an afterthought as most manufacturers, Japanese included, vie for increasing markets in developing countries.  Let’s hope those in Japan can continue to get a top notch motor show for the foreseeable future.

2011 Tokyo Motor Show is part of a series of posts about various car and bike shows in Tokyo.  To read more about the other car and bike shows, please follow the links below:

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