Whilst we’re all getting ready for Christmas, we sent our MD to Tokyo for the 2013 motor show, to check out the latest and greatest in the automotive sector.
What first hits you as you approach the Tokyo Big Sight complex is the size and scale of the Tokyo Motor Show. Just the sheer number of people who are entering the building is phenomenal.
So I get in and head straight to the East Wing where there are 6 main halls, each representing 10 football size pitches. It’s vast and I still can’t get over the number of people; so much so, I really start to study them to understand who they are and why they’re here.
And therein lie the answers. Firstly, the passion the Japanese have for cars is second to none. They are obsessed by design, all the intricate details, how many screens are in the back of the car, how many wheel nuts there are and the formation of the headlights. Everyone is jostling to take the best photos – shots of the engine layout, the disc brakes, even the door handles and you start to quickly understand how excited they get about cars. You only have to look at how many Japanese brands there are in the car sector and you get a sense of how important cars and bikes are to the Japanese people.
The second is mobility. I was astonished at the number of elderly that were there and was convinced I had walked into a WI convention when I entered the Suzuki arena. Yes we are living longer, and that fact is never more apparent than in Japan, but that doesn’t prevent them getting in and out of the cars, trying all the mobility features, different seating positions, using lifts to get them in and all the other specialist buttons and functionality within the dashboard. It was all there and they were loving it! It was clear that the Japanese car brands put a lot of effort in catering for this ever growing demographic.
There were more hybrids on show than ever before, but no real sense of going mass market just yet. I guess it was encouraging to see an increased number of high performance cars entering the market, but it still feels wrong to me that you can have a V8 engine that sings like a bird rather than roaring like a lion.
Where it started to get interesting was when I came across the theme for the show – “Smart Mobility City”. This was a real effort by the organisers to hold debates and drive thought leadership around the smarter connected world and how cars can play such a big part in that journey. There has been lots of talk over the last 5 years about the ‘internet’ of things and for me the connected car is right up there with the best. It was really encouraging to see how some of the leading car brands are starting to look at digitally connected services within the operating system of the vehicle, based upon user behaviours. As a marketer, the mind started to boggle with lots of creative ideas that we can be taking to our automotive clients across Europe.
For me, Toyota stole the show for set design and layout. They had created a village that had everything in it. It was by far the most popular stand and designing a Corolla dressed in denim, along with their FV2 concept car that responds to you based upon motion and mood, certainly played its part in making it a huge success.
Honda went for size and scale and had the biggest stand by far – literally a whole side of the West Wing dedicated to its cars, bikes and power equipment! And not forgetting Asimo, Honda’s total commitment to technology and enriching our lives, along with a new and updated version of Uni-Cub (think Segway but sitting down). I can’t see myself craving for one of these just yet, but I have to say the motion and response of the device was very impressive. You can see more here.
So the highlight for me was that, as we start to understand better the opportunities the connected world can bring us, it was the brands that are leading its development that got my attention and I’d definitely go back for more.
Group Managing Director