For the first time in its history.
In what shouldn't be a surprising announcement, the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association has confirmed the 2021 Tokyo Motor Show has been canceled. Originally scheduled to get underway in late October, officials made the call due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Major metropolitan areas in the country, including Tokyo, are currently experiencing a Covid-19 spike. There's no way to know, even six months in advance, how the situation on the ground will look this fall.
There were reportedly some earlier discussions about potentially having the show be an online event, according to Nikkei Asia, but some industry bigwigs, such as Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda, were not interested in that.
"We wanted to stick to a real event," Toyoda said. The show's cancellation further calls into question the status of this summer's Olympic Games, also to be held in the Japanese capital. Due to begin in late July, organizers still insist it'll happen but there will be major restrictions, such as allowing domestic spectators only. However, canceling the event still hasn't been ruled out.
Held every two years, the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show drew 192 companies and 1.3 million visitors, but the Japanese extravaganza has lost its status as the premier car show of Asia. That honor now belongs to the Shanghai Auto Show, which is currently underway.
This is the first time in its 67-year history that the show has been canceled, with the 1989 show being a particular highlight. That was the year when Japanese automakers revealed a number of icons that challenged the status quo, including the Acura NSX and Lexus LS. Ferrari and Lamborghini quickly realized they could no longer get away with building interiors whose quality was barely better than cardboard. The first-ever Lexus sent a direct signal to Mercedes-Benz the Japanese not only discovered their luxury formula but also improved it. Another stunning Tokyo debut: the Toyota 2000GT in 1965.
It was too soon to know what could have debuted at Tokyo 2021, but it doesn't matter now. Live auto shows will one day return but their status has likely diminished.