Toyota, Japanese Carmakers Downshift


The poorly-attended Tokyo Motor Show provides a sneak peek into just how little gas is left to fuel that country’s once dominant auto industry. According to Reuters, this year carmakers will showcase just 19 cars, down from 37 last year, taking up less than half the floor space of last year’s show. Toyota’s sales are so low that it has prompted Toyota president Akio Toyoda to publicly apologize for the company’s poor performance.

As Japanese auto makers struggle to make their cars relevant and appealing to Japanese consumers, with ever-more environmentally friendly and experimental, futuristic models, for now it’s clear they’ve got a tough battle on their hands to win back the public. Like their American counterparts, today’s Japanese youth just aren’t interested in cars – in fact, many find them vaguely distasteful.[more]

Martin Zimmerman, blogging at the LA Times, explains:

In Japan, the first major developed country to actually experience a decline in car ownership, disinterest among young people in owning cars — especially in urban areas such as Tokyo — is cited as one of the factors behind “demotorization.” The trend is already having a serious impact on the Japanese auto industry, and poses a threat to car-dependent businesses such as restaurants and retail establishments located away from public transportation lines.

The current “demotorization” of Japan is a culmination of many factors: a 20-year economic slide that has eroded job stability and hopes of big salaries for the country’s youth; strict government policies regulating vehicles in cities; and the rise of an efficient public transportation system connecting even the smallest towns in the countryside to a vast network of safe, clean, reliable and relatively cheap trains.

This is a situation advertising cannot fix. Japanese automakers now need to look forward and parlay their growing international reputation as leaders in environmentally-friendly and increasingly inventive and futuristic auto technology.


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