Japan Mobility Show 2023: Reflecting on the Electric Revolution
The buzzing streets of Tokyo have a renewed energy as the nation welcomes back its famed auto show after a four-year hiatus. Now bearing the moniker “Japan Mobility Show,” this event emerges not merely as a rebrand but as a mirror to the global shift towards electric vehicles (EVs).
This reinvention may seem ambitious and aligned with global industry aspirations, yet there’s an underlying sentiment that Japanese automakers have some catching up to do, particularly in the battery-powered domain.
The Local Giants Step Up
Toyota, leading the global automotive market, has made significant waves this year. Addressing prior criticisms of being too leisurely in their adoption of battery EVs, they announced a strategic U-turn towards this sector. This entails both the commercialization of advanced battery technologies and the incorporation of die-casting methods – a technique brought into prominence by the electric vehicle giant, Tesla.
Such moves by Toyota signify a broader industry trend. However, the road ahead looks increasingly challenging for smaller Japanese rivals, such as Subaru, Mazda, and Mitsubishi Motors. Analysts predict potential hurdles for these firms as they navigate the transition to electric.
International Players Make Their Mark
But as Japanese automakers prepare to showcase their visions for the future, it’s worth noting that not all exhibits are merely conceptual. Foreign automotive leaders are seizing the opportunity to highlight their existing and upcoming EV offerings.
BYD, China’s premier car manufacturer, holds the unique distinction of being the inaugural Chinese brand to feature its models at the Tokyo show. It’s also one of only three international manufacturers present, sharing the stage with renowned German powerhouses, Mercedes and BMW. In stark contrast to their Japanese counterparts, these foreign entities are set to exhibit battery EVs either already on the roads or set for imminent release.
Koji Endo, a leading voice from SBI Securities, observes a widening chasm. On one side are the heavyweights like Toyota and Honda, reveling in unprecedented profits. On the other, there are those struggling to find their footing in the rapidly evolving automotive landscape.
Navigating Difficult Terrains
The current scenario isn’t solely about technological transformation. Japanese brands face escalating input costs, combined with dwindling sales, especially in the significant Chinese market. Firms like Nissan and Mitsubishi feel this sting acutely, with reports suggesting that Mitsubishi might halt production in China altogether.
As a beacon of hope and innovation, Toyota plans to spotlight a series of battery-driven concept models at the Japan Mobility Show. These range from sport utility vehicles to mid-size pickup trucks, and even sports cars. This diversity underscores Toyota’s comprehensive strategy, which extends beyond battery EVs to other electrified and alternative energy options. Attendees can also anticipate the latest from Toyota’s esteemed Century and Crown series, renowned for their hybrid configurations.
Nissan, another titan in the industry, will unveil its electric Ariya, Leaf, and Sakura models. The brand will also introduce attendees to fresh EV concept designs, including a luxury minivan.
The Changing Automotive Landscape
The biennial event, last skipped in 2021 due to the pandemic, promises an eclectic mix of mobility solutions. From autonomous vehicles, motorbikes, and trucks to futuristic “flying cars,” the show aims to captivate a broader audience than ever before.
Yet, underlying these innovations is an impending concern. With a rapidly aging demographic and a decrease in younger consumers, Japan’s car market faces substantial pressures. Recent data from the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association paints a sobering picture. In 2022, registrations dwindled by 6.2% from the prior year, marking a mere 3.4 million vehicles. It’s the third year in a row where sales remained below the 4 million mark. One can’t ignore the external factors either. The aftermath of the pandemic led to semiconductor shortages, disrupting auto manufacturing globally.
However, while the Japanese market displays signs of contraction, Southeast Asia tells a different story. Data reveals a robust 24% growth in passenger vehicle sales across seven nations in this region, culminating in 2.2 million in 2022. Yet, even in these burgeoning markets, Japanese automakers find themselves in fierce competition with emerging Chinese EV brands.