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October 22, 2009

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Home » Business » Auto

Car firms skip show in Tokyo

THIS year's Tokyo Motor Show is a lonesome affair for the Japanese, with foreign auto makers largely no-shows for the first time in decades as they cut costs amid the downturn and focus on fast-growing markets like China.

The Japanese have always had a major presence at the Tokyo show, now being staged for the 41st time. But the nation's top five auto makers and their affiliates have never dominated like this due to the number of foreign companies skipping the event.

The show opened to the public over the weekend, and runs through November 4.

The lethargy of the Japanese market, which fell to its lowest level in over three decades last year at 3.21 million vehicles, is another reason overseas auto makers and suppliers have stayed away.

Instead, they have focused on events in emerging markets such as the Shanghai Auto Show.

Conspicuously absent from the Tokyo show were German car makers Volkswagen AG and BMW AG as well as United States manufacturers General Motors Co and Ford Motor Co. All attended the previous Tokyo 2007 show.

"Given the economic environment and limited resources, we had to make some very difficult decisions, which included the decision not to participate in the Tokyo Motor Show," Ford's Whitney Small said.

South Korea's Hyundai Motor Co was on the initial list of participants, but canceled weeks ago, citing "the global economic downturn, which has forced a more careful allocation of resources."

But the array of cars on display - electric vehicles, plug-ins, futuristic hybrid sports cars - were designed to drive home the message that the Japanese are determined to take a decisive lead in green auto technology.

"The race to zero-emission has begun," Nissan Motor Co Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn said yesterday.


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