By on July 8, 2013
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Akio Toyoda at the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show


If you want to sell cars, you need to market them.  Except in Japan, say the Detroit 3. In Japan, it’s easier and cheaper to complain about closed markets and manipulated currencies than to waste money trying to sell cars.  After the jump, you will find a list of automakers that will display their cars at this year’s Tokyo Motor Show. You probably can imagine who is not on this list.

2013 Tokyo Motor Show
Passenger Cars
HONDA (Japan)
LEXUS (Japan)
NISSAN (Japan)
MAZDA (Japan)
SUBARU (Japan)
SUZUKI (Japan)
TOYOTA (Japan)
ALPINA (Germany)
AMG (Germany)
AUDI (Germany)
BMW (Germany)
CITROËN (France)
MINI (Germany)
PEUGEOT (France)
PORSCHE (Germany)
RENAULT (France)
SMART (Germany)
VOLVO (Sweden)
Commercial Vehicles
HINO  (Japan)
ISUZU (Japan)

For the third time in a row, Detroit automakers are not participating in the Tokyo Motor Show, held at Tokyo Big Sight on Tokyo’s Odaiba Island between Nov. 22 and Dec. 1.  Understandably, they did not come during the dark days of 2009. But even when things improved,  they were not back at the biannual show. German companies, such as Volkswagen, BMW, and Mercedes on the other hand will again deliver full court appearances.

As you can see, Tokyo will be a cozy show again, and full attention would be guaranteed, unlike in China, where you are one of a few hundred participants, and the place is so mobbed that people won’t get to your cars. But God forbid, what would happen if Japanese showgoers suddenly detect their love for Detroit iron and buy it? Can’t have that.

The list of the participants reflects genuine interests in  making sales in Japan. Detroit is not interested, while maintaining loudly that they would be, if only those nasty Japanese would let them.

The Los Angeles Auto Show is exactly on the same days of the Tokyo bash, from  Nov. 22 to Dec. 1. It’s one of those coincidences.

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47 Comments on “Detroit 3: Bitching About Closed Markets Beats Really Trying...”

  • avatar

    Did you ever get a sales list, by make, of the number of imports to the Japanese market? I recall from the other day that it was difficult to tell market size by manufacturer.

    • 0 avatar

    • 0 avatar

      What BS FAILS to state is that the Europeans have SKIPPED the Tokyo Motor Show on a no. of occasions while they (and the American automakers) always found it worth their while to go to the Seoul Motor Show – hmmmmmm.

  • avatar

    Alan Mulally was quoted as saying that the Japanese were “without doubt” guilty of money manipulations with regard to the United States, yen vs the dollar. Is this true?

    If so, could the Japanese be operating prejudicially against the American BIg Three car makers? I don’t know: just asking….

    It would seem unconscionable for Mr Mulally to say something like that without clear evidence….


    Bertel: BTW – the article has some repeated paragraphs:

    “The list of the participants reflects genuine interests in making sales in Japan. Detroit is not interested, while maintaining loudly that they would be, if only those nasty Japanese would let them.

    The Los Angeles Auto Show is exactly on the same days of the Tokyo bash, from Nov. 22 to Dec. 1. It’s one of those coincidences.”


    • 0 avatar

      Fixed, thank you.

      As for the allegedly manipulated currency: Shares in Ford and GM gained around 90 percent in a year. According to prevailing Detroit logic, where it must be cheating when prices move, those stocks must be highly manipulated.

      • 0 avatar

        Huh? You just don’t understand monetary policy and abenomics. It’s the STATED GOAL of the Prime Minister to END DEFLATION via aggressive monetary policy.

        A side effect of this monetary policy (ending deflation) is that it devalues the yen. This is absolute fact. There is no debate. Now Japan denies that this is ‘currency manipulation’ because they call it a side effect of ending deflation. But make no mistake they are lowering the Yen. They know it. We know it. The whole world knows it – except evidently you.

        Somehow you think this is an empty charge..

        “In a unanimous vote, the bank’s board stuck to its strategy of expanding the monetary base at an annual pace of 60 trillion yen to 70 trillion yen, or $586 billion to $684 billion, through purchases of government bonds, commercial debt and other assets. ”

        “He said that the central bank would continue to make large bond purchases to “keep up the downward pressure on interest rates.” He has also suggested that the bank would adjust the way it bought bonds in the market. ”


        See the thing is I agree that the Japanese market is free of tariff barriers. And that Detroit is generally lousy at trying to sell to the Japanese (of course so is Kia and Hyundai).

        You can say that the US has no excuse for not having a larger presence in Japan other then incompetence. That’s all fine. But to deny that they are lowering the Yen. That’s just stupid.

        Japan has been hammering the Yen. It’s part of their fiscal policy.

  • avatar
    Piston Slap Yo Mama

    The women at the Chevrolet booth for the 1999 Tokyo Motor Show absolutely haunt my dreams and warped my already impossibly high standards for feminine beauty. True, booth girls are tasked with looking awesome, and they all did … but Chevrolet pulled out the stops that year. Trust me TTAC readers – it’s tragic that this commenting system doesn’t permit photos to be posted.

    In summary: Chevrolet MUST return to the Tokyo Motor Show.

  • avatar

    Tilting at windmills.

  • avatar

    Given that MITI and the Zaibatsu are dead set against any American car manufacturer getting any sort of foothold in Japan, and whereas China is a comparatively booming market where American cars are desired and popular, why should American manufacturers even BOTHER with Japan?

    • 0 avatar

      If is not worth for Detroit automakers to compete in Japan: why complain about it in the first place?

      They should say something like: “Japanese market is not worth competing into since it has very specific car needs which we currently don’t have products for, requiring a lot of investment to create a product worth for the Japanese. So we just import a few products” instead of “Japan is a closed market for American automakers, bla bla bla”


      • 0 avatar

        Because while part of it is cultural (Japanese do tend to support the home team, as it were) the fact that Japan demands open markets to export to while closing their own is a legitimate point, and just as hypocritical as American companies demanding Japan get the (intentional) red tape out of the way while demanding the U.S. retain the chicken tax.

        And just because one side does it doesn’t make it OK for the other side to. Two wrongs don’t make a right, they just make people go buy Hyundai and Kia in frustration.

        • 0 avatar

          Who the Hell cares what automakers say? They’re hypocrites by definition.

          All OEMs will claim a crash test isn’t “real world” when one of their cars gets a ‘marginal’ or poor rating.

          Meanwhile, when the same OEMs that have cars with ‘favorable’ or a “FIVE STAR CRASH RATING”, from the SAME EXACT test will, by God, mention it in BOLD print, in their ad campaigns.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            @DenverMike UAW
            “Who the Hell cares what automakers say? They’re hypocrites by definition.”

            That is the attitude you guys used when you killed Detroit.

          • 0 avatar


            Nobody is more full of $H!T than an OEM’s marketing mouthpiece and union spokesmen. Of course unions are putting on a song and dance for their union dues. That’s what they do. Lobbying congress is no different. That’s when you have to burn a couple brain cells to see what the true picture is. So why should we listen to any of them? And what does their statements have to do with reality. Or the implosion of the D2 or 3?

    • 0 avatar


      Do a Wiki check on MITI and zaibatsu. Time passes.

  • avatar

    If I see one more title stating CLOSED MARKET I will hack this site, well I dont know how to hack anything but if I did I would.

  • avatar

    When Hyundai and Kia start selling cars again in Japan then there could be a case against Detroit. I think the real reason is Japanese prejudice. or maybe VW quality so much better than Korean or American cars?

  • avatar

    You’d think at least Cadillac would set up a booth with the new ATS and CTS on display. But no, that’s not happening.

  • avatar

    Strange….I was just in Japan. I saw quite a few Chevies. Even a Suburban. Particularly in Northern Japan. And they were not owned by US ex-patriots. I bet if GM actually marketed their cars, they might even sell a few more.

    Nah…that would be too much work.

  • avatar

    I cannot accept as a valid excuse the Tokyo and LA shows taking place at the same time. Are the US companies stretched so thin that they don’t have staff to handle two events? They only have one copy of all their new products?

    What does US product have to offer in Japan, except perhaps to satisfy a niche market of drivers that desire to be dramatically nonconformist?

    It’s time Detroit admitted that Japanese buyers as a whole just don’t like what they’re trying to sell over there.

  • avatar
    Eric 0

    American cars simply do not fit on Japanese roads. The japanese like their cars to be tiny and nice. The D3 make a couple of tiny cars, and a couple of nice cars, but nothing that is both. So VW Polos BMW 1 series, Audi A3 (which looks huge in Japan BTW.) are the main foreign offerings. Most Japanese would look at a Cadillac ATS like it had a third eye. The japanese are also intensely brand loyal, in the way americans used to be, and believe that the japanese make the best of everything. Japanes cars do well in the US because they have been designed to appeal to American tastes. The Japanese even created whole new premium brands so that they could sell the premium cars they already made into foreign markets. Perhaps if GM rebranded all their Chevys and Cadillacs as “GM” cars they might have a shot. The multiple brand thing is confusing to the japanese. They can’t understand why a company would put another name than their own on the thing they make. It seems dishonest and fishy to them.

    • 0 avatar

      What’s the standard width of Japanese roads? They do have regulations there, no?

      And aren’t Lexus and Acura, “fishy” re-badge’d Toyotas and Hondas?

      • 0 avatar

        Only Lexus is sold in Japan, and then in relatively small numbers compared to upscale Toyotas like the Crown. Acura and Infiniti models are sold domestically as Hondas and Nissans.

        As far as width, I’d say it’s more preference than necessity. True some roads, particularly in cities, are very narrow, but that can be said of Boston and Philadelphia. Not that I would want to navigate them in an Impala either, but considering kei cars, which make up 2/5 of the market, are narrower than a Ford Focus it’s a tough sell. Perception is a much harder nut to crack than tarriffs ever could be.

    • 0 avatar

      @Eric O,
      Same applies to many European Medieval cities, they were never designed with cars in mind.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        It seems the UAW are discrediting Lexus etc. As being;

        “fishy” re-badge’d Toyotas and Hondas?

        What are GM going to do with Caddy’s?

        They are looking at using a lowly Holden Commodore platform. A common mans car.

        Another case of the UAW saying do as we say.

  • avatar


    Link below published by Chiyoda-ku, one of central ward of Tokyo shows the random width of the roads.

    Main roads are wide for sure, but our chaos city problem is, missing one corner and get adventure to jump into the next corner tends to end up by stuck to a narrow road with 3 meter width.
    Japanese market perhaps have highest rate to adopt satellite navigation option on cars. we buy it because we don’t want to get stuck and create scratches and dents by hitting bicycles parked everywhere.

    I hope you’ll realize driving a full size truck in Tokyo is not a good idea by examining the map in details.

    • 0 avatar

      You would have to be crazy to even think that it would be a good idea. The same applies to some of the old cities of North America i.e New York that has narrow streets and few US pickups.

      • 0 avatar
        Eric 0

        It’s a whole other leveI. I live in New York and drive a BMW 5 series easily. Have lived in Boston too. If I lived in Japan I would drive a Kei-ish car no question. There is no American car I would consider owning in Japan. Even cities like Rome and London do not prepare one for the 3/4 scale-ness of older Japan.

        • 0 avatar
          Big Al from Oz

          I just spent 5 weeks in France, actually from north of Paris to the Spanish border and beyond.

          Because half of my extended family lives there I’ve been there before. This is the first time I rented a car.

          I rented a Yaris as I also thought this would be the largest vehicle to relatively easily drive through the villages, towns and cities.

          The only largish vehicles are generally business vehicles. Even then they can delay traffic for long periods of time.

          If full size pickups or even too many Camry size vehicles are travelling through the to cities, traffic would slow down even more.

          That’s why Paris has one of the best public transit systems in the world.

          Driving is almost out of the question on a regular basis, unless it’s business.

      • 0 avatar

        haha, just kidding to bring out full size..
        But this is not the situation just for the central Tokyo, most habitable flat geographic locations (= current industrial areas) has legacy of ancient roads paved way before automobiles invented.

        • 0 avatar

          The UAW troll(Denvermike) will invent the most ridiculous excuses why his Full Size Pickup can do everything a Kei Van can do in Tokyo, he is paid to keep to advertise UAW built vehicles on forums and exaggerate their capabilities even to the point of absurdity..
          The UAW is involved in virtually ALL US “Full Size’production except for the Tundra and Titan. They are in the process of trying to Unionize those workforces.
          They are NOT Involved with the production of Midsize Pickups in NA. Obvuiously he is very negative about these.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      @ccode 81
      The guy thinks there’s a business case for the US to export full size pickups to Europe.

      Why? Because the don’t know what they are missing.

      He claims to have been to Spain several dozen times. I was just in Spain and the roads will not support full size trucks. Outside of the US and Canada only Australia and New Zealand will support such vehicles.

      He hasn’t got a clue.

      • 0 avatar

        We won’t know until we find out. At least we know small trucks are a dying niche in the US. Yes full-size trucks wouldn’t appeal to consumers around the world like they do in the US. But who are YOU to say how big or small the niche market may be. And a niche market in a hundreds countries is something to consider. The dealer network is already set up and lots of countries have huge expanses of wide open country. And money to burn!

        BMW didn’t set out to put a cheap BMW in every driveway, around the world. That’s what VW is for.

        Just take anything that wildly popular in the their home country, The Beatles, Doors, Coca Cola, McDonalds, Nikes, Levis. There’s no guarantee they’ll find the same success everywhere else. But it’s a great indicator.

    • 0 avatar

      That link didn’t show much. Name a busy Medieval street that would stop a full-size in it’s tracks, but allow a mid-size to fly thru. I’ll google earth it. Even so, eventually you have to get out of your mid-size and hike the rest of the way. The same with full-size vans. How do people manage with those scary monsters?

  • avatar
    doctor olds

    Similarly, Porsche did not participate in the North American International Auto Show in Detroit because the costs could not be justified by their infinitesimal sales in the region.

    Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

    GM and Ford recognize the low return (multi-decade losses?) that other makers such as VW are willing to incur to win a whole 1% of market share.

  • avatar

    I’m not very much interested to the debate of full size vs mid size thing.
    From japanese urban resident perspective, we have very small occasion to carry big things, one phone call and sophisticated delivery service will come to door and carry my stuff with affordable fare up to 9 PM.
    In chance I have to carry by my self, I can rent 2 ton truck for 100 bucks a so for 24 hours.

    My point is anything longer than 4.7m length and 1.9 m width is a size to feel some kind of punishment in back streets.
    Anyway let me introduce some samples .

    1. road facing FujiFilm world HQ, 1km from famous Roppongi district.,+Minato,+Tokyo,+Japan&hl=en&ll=35.659608,139.71881&spn=0.001831,0.003195&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=41.224889,104.677734&oq=nishiazab&t=h&hnear=Nishiazabu,+Minato,+Tokyo,+Japan&z=19&layer=c&cbll=35.659798,139.718659&panoid=V3yPEu5LGLzfsyyZ8YmH4A&cbp=12,32.68,,0,0

    go straight to that ordinary 6m width road and find out how you can go through without backing.

    2. Typical residential area in Suginami-ku where i drove just an hour ago to send my friend,139.66942&spn=0.001664,0.006389&t=h&z=18&layer=c&cbll=35.681086,139.669422&panoid=9yrIjE6TuHsRoNbrK0zvsQ&cbp=11,249.38,,0,1.72

    3. feel unfair to be put in back streets?
    this is so so main road going to Kichoji. Street name is Inokashira-dori. I’ve picked random point,139.612099&spn=0.000294,0.001597&t=h&z=20&layer=c&cbll=35.690343,139.611842&panoid=MkKJ1MTJOBbJYNBK0rBCfw&cbp=11,298.3,,0,0

    Driving on road is already tough, but getting near to destination and finding a parking that fits to the large car and put into there is a more problem..

    Hope you can share part of my daily struggle.

    Thanks for all the comments to give me kind warning!

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