The Tokyo Motor Show: An Open-Ended Future

Rallying from Behind

The 46th biennial Tokyo Motor Show (TMS) just concluded along with one of Japan’s biggest weekends in recent memory. In spite of rising concerns regarding the steady fall in attendance, the Tokyo Motor Show exceeded its goal of attracting one million guests.

To call that target ambitious is an understatement considering the substantial decline in the show’s popularity since 2013. The speed, quality, and access to information makes it easier than ever to catch up on the latest developments even before they make it to the exhibit halls. Technology certainly makes it more comfortable for potential patrons to peruse through the conveniently curated story lines from home.

Has the mystique of ground breaking announcements and concept reveals taken a back seat to clickbait and spec reports?

Make no mistake, enthusiasts and car buffs will continue to attend these events. But even in a metropolitan area of over 38 million inhabitants, the last TMS only pulled in about 770,000 guests. If the show wanted to reach their target, they needed to find a way to attract everyone else.

Enter the non-enthusiasts.

Beyond the Motor

Up until now, the Tokyo Motor Show had always been held entirely within Tokyo Big Sight. However, due to preparations for the Olympics, organizers divided the show between the Ariake and Aomi exhibit halls. This required attendees to commute between venues. While the vast area between the two exhibits proved to be a logistical burden, it also presented an opportunity to attract the exact, untapped demographic the show needed.

For the first time ever, the Tokyo Motor Show incorporated several free outdoor displays and interactive exhibits to bring in the casual crowd. Perhaps inspired by the previous show’s theme of “Beyond the Motor,” the 46th Tokyo Motor Show introduced several alternative modes of transportation. Organizers looked past the rear-view inside the car and quite literally turned to the Open Road of possibilities outside it. This extension–or rather connection–highlighted more personalized forms of convenient transportation. What better way to show off the practicality of an electric scooter than to showcase it on an open lane alongside the slogging pedestrian pathway.

The Future is Open-Ended

With a theme of “Open Future,” the Tokyo Motor Show truly brought a lot to explore. Some of the new attractions included an e-gaming tournament, a nighttime drone display, and the “Future Expo“.

Inside, the exhibit halls also showed signs of a shift in attention from under-the-hood to out-of-the-car. Major manufacturers switched gears to accommodate a more lifestyle-oriented approach by appealing to families, private vendors, and even those looking to live on or off the road.

The Tokyo Motor Show crushed the already lofty numbers it had set initially–almost doubling the attendees from 2017. The twelve-day expo brought in an astounding 1.3 million visitors. However, only one question remains. Can its organizers continue to innovate along with the cars it showcases?

Ironically, the show surpassed all expectations by depending less on automobiles. Instead, this year demonstrated the potential for growth by being more inclusive and inventive. If future shows can continue to educate and experiment, then there’s a long road ahead. But if they revert to simply letting the cars be the driving force behind the experience, then the Tokyo Motor Show might someday reach a dead end.

One thing’s for certain, this year was quite the ride.

Special thanks to Patric Batac a.k.a. Tech Ninja for the Open Road and Drive Park shots! Please take a look at his excellent work and leave a like for him on his YouTue Channel as well.