Why Tokyo Motor Show organizers are mulling options for 2021

TOKYO – Organizers of the Tokyo Motor Show are taking a wait-and-see stance to next year’s event as the COVID-19 pandemic wreaks havoc with the international auto show circuit.

The biennial Tokyo Motor Show, scheduled to take place in the fall of 2021, may have to be reimagined or possibly brought online, Akio Toyoda said Thursday, speaking in his role as chairman of the show’s organizing group, the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association.

“Honestly, we don’t have any scenarios for the Tokyo Motor Show next year at the moment. It remains unclear whether it will be possible to physically hold a crowd-gathering event in this coronavirus outbreak and what new ways we can organize such an event,” said Toyoda, who also serves as president of Toyota Motor Corp., the country’s biggest automaker.

“We will not give up our hope for bringing together people, but at the same time we will explore what we can do online without the need for gathering people,” Toyoda said.

Tokyo is wavering on plans for the next show as much of the international auto show schedule has been upended due to the pandemic. Organizers of the Detroit auto show said Monday the next event will be held Sept. 28-Oct. 9, 2021, after postponing plans to hold it in June 2020. The Los Angeles Auto Show, which had been scheduled to run Nov. 20-29, will now take place May 21-31, 2021.

Geneva show organizers have said it may return in March 2021, but only as a three-day, media-only event while the 2021 Canadian International Auto Show will move entirely online.

Meanwhile, in China, the epicenter of the global coronavirus outbreak, the Beijing show opens its doors Sept. 26, after moving back the date from an originally planned start in April.

Toyoda held out optimism for the Tokyo show, citing positive remarks about holding next summer’s Tokyo Olympics that were recently made by the chairman of the International Olympic Committee. If the Olympics go ahead in 2021, so too might the auto show, Toyoda reasoned. The 2020 Tokyo Olympics were set to open last month but were postponed when the pandemic hit.

The Tokyo Motor Show has struggled in recent years, amid falling visitor turnout and disinterest from automakers, many of which would rather spend their auto show marketing budget in China.

But last year, under Toyoda’s leadership and a new push to reinvigorate the event, the Tokyo show met an ambitious attendance target by exceeding 1 million visitors. The 2019 show drew 1.3 million people, a 70 percent surge over the 771,200 who attended the biennial show in 2017.

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