The Tokyo Motor Show

  • From Japanese exhibition to international motor show
  • Popular stage for futuristic and design studies
  • Visitor records – the order of the day
Tokyo/Stuttgart. They say they always come back: when the 40th Tokyo Motor Show opens under the motto “Catch the News, Touch the Future” in late October 2007, the organizers – Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) – present a new concept for the show, which is in fact a tried and tested one. From the fall of 2007, the motor show will again be staged at two-year intervals, as it already was between 1975 and 1997, and present cars, motorbikes, commercial vehicles, bodywork and components under one roof.
Of the five major motor shows – Detroit, Frankfurt/Main, Geneva, Paris and Tokyo – the latter is the only one which caters for the entire branch of industry, as the organizers emphasize. “The automotive industry is engaged in ongoing development in the fields of research and engineering, product marketing, safety, environmental compatibility and design – irrespective of whether passenger cars or commercial vehicles are concerned,” explains Akira Nakayama, Senior Director General of the JAMA association which was founded in 1967 and today comprises 14 manufacturers. And he continues to say that “a joint motor show for passenger cars and commercial vehicles gives visitors a broader view. They are able to witness developments across the entire motor industry.” He also points out that the two-year motor show interval results in cost savings for the participating companies.
The Tokyo Motor Show was staged for the first time under the name “All Japan Motor Show” in the Hibiya Park in downtown Tokyo on April 20, 1954. Things were rather unhurried at the time. Just a few years after World War II, the Japanese motor industry was still in some stage of hibernation. The annual contingent of just 1,594 passenger cars in 1950 corresponded to roughly a twentieth of today’s daily production in Japan. The first motor show focused on trucks, buses, three-wheelers and motorbikes. Of the 267 vehicles on display, no more than 17 were passenger cars, reflecting the country’s economic situation at the time quite well: in 1954, washing machines were in fact the only high-technology consumer goods which were widely used in Japan. The Japanese population may not have been able to afford cars at the time but was nonetheless highly interested in technical innovations and mobility. The first motor show lasted ten days and recorded 547,000 visitors – a proud figure in that day and age.
As early as the third motor show, a split according to types of vehicle was introduced, and the motor show slowly developed from the Japanese motor industry’s advertising forum for the public into a venue where real business was conducted. The fifth show in 1958 was, just once, staged on the premises of the Korakuen cycling track. That, however, proved to be not so good an idea. It rained heavily, and just under 520,000 visitors converted the premises into a giant mud hole.
After the completion of the international trade center, the new Harumi trade fair grounds became the new venue of the Tokyo Motor Show from 1959. Here, exhibitors had well over twice the exhibition space at their disposal than previously. The number of vehicles on display rose from 260 to 317.
The center of attention at the seventh show in 1960 was the government’s announcement to deregulate trade speedily. However, the motor industry in particular did not yet feel up to the competition. Firstly, the unit figures produced were still rather low, and secondly quality and performance did not rank among the distinctive features of Japanese cars. As a consequence, and for Japanese manufacturers to keep up with the competition, the design of the Japanese cars on display was oriented to a growing extent to that of western cars in the course of the 1960s. The show therefore saw predominantly young people who admired the sports car versions of Japanese manufacturers. In 1962, the motor show for the first time recorded over one million visitors.
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    Cars of the future: Poster advertising the Tokyo Motor Show in 1981.

Source: JAMA
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    New technologies: At the 2005 Tokyo Motor Show, the Mercedes-Benz F 600 HYGENIUS research car demonstrated the state of the art in fuel cell propulsion, while the S 320 BLUETEC HYBRID combined clean diesel technology with a particularly compact hybrid system.
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    Dedicated to commercial vehicles: The 2000 Tokyo Motor Show.

Source: JAMA
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    Large crowds: The enthusiasm for cars is outstanding in Japan, and the Tokyo Motor Show registers visitor records time and again (photo from the 1970s).

Source: JAMA
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    2005 Tokyo Motor Show: The Mercedes Car Group was represented by its Mercedes-Benz, Maybach and smart brands on a generously large stand.
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    A sensation for the world and a star of the motor show: The design study of the Maybach at the 1997 Tokyo Motor Show.
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    Crash test at the 1997 Tokyo Motor Show: Mercedes-Benz demonstrated the high safety standards of its cars.
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    New technologies: At the 2005 Tokyo Motor Show, the Mercedes-Benz F 600 HYGENIUS research car demonstrated the state of the art in fuel cell propulsion, while the S 320 BLUETEC HYBRID combined clean diesel technology with a particularly compact hybrid system.
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    Motor show highlight: At the 1999 Tokyo Motor Show, Jürgen Hubbert presented a concept car, the Vision SLR roadster.
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    Silver Arrow: The Vision SLR roadster, a concept car, at the 1999 Tokyo Motor Show.
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    Mobile messages for Asia: The Mercedes-Benz stand at the 1999 Tokyo Motor Show.
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    Stage for premieres: Poster advertising the first Tokyo Motor Show in 1954.

Source: JAMA
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    Attracting great media attention: The Mercedes-Benz F 500 Mind at the 2003 Tokyo Motor Show.
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    2001 Tokyo Motor Show: Mercedes-Benz sent the F 400 Carving research car onto the Japanese stage.