January 16, 2013 00:00 By Kingsley Wijayasinha
Toyota 86 the star of the show as "VIP" customisation trend is replaced by a more performance-driven theme
Every year in January a large number of Thai accessories manufacturers and dealers brave the cold to visit the Tokyo Auto Salon to check out the latest trends in automobiles and customisation.
This time it was no different, except that the 2013 event, held during the weekend, had grown in size as the organisers expanded the number of halls from 8 to 11 at the Makuhari Messe in Chiba prefecture.
The event was held by the Tokyo Auto Salon Association (TASA), Nippon Auto Parts- Product After-Market Promotional Committee (NAPAC) and Option magazine along with Chiba Prefecture and other co-promoters.
With the additional halls, the show area was increased from last year’s 54,000sqm to 72,000sqm. There was also a special area dedicated to D1 Grand Prix Series drifters showing off their skills.
A total of 452 exhibitors took part this year, featuring 802 vehicles, while as many as 3,608 booths offered aftermarket accessories.
While the Japanese “VIP” customisation trend seems to have slowed down dramatically, it has been replaced by more performance-driven themes for popular models in the market.
There is no doubt that the most popular model at this year’s event was the Toyota 86, which zoomed off with the title from the Nissan GTR that had been dominating the Auto Salon for many years.
I reckoned that as much as 40 per cent of the show area had been dedicated to the 86, with various tuning houses offering their own versions of the 2+2 sports car from Toyota.
I’d just driven the 86 late last month (a review is coming up shortly) and despite its excellent handling and drift-happy character, it is clear that its normally aspirated 200-hp boxer engine needs more power and torque for serious competitive drifting. Here is where tuners like Tom’s, TRD, GReddy and Gazoo Racing step in and offer tuning kits for those who want to give their 86 more oomph.
Subaru, which makes an 86 twin called the BRZ, was also present at the show, but on a much smaller scale.
In any case, the customisation of these cars revolves around increasing horsepower and torque with turbochargers.
A large number of exotic, luxury and supercars were also dressed up and tuned by not only Japanese stables but also European and American companies.
There was a large population of customised Audis, Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Porsches inhabiting the Auto Salon, but the most amazing had to be a dressed up Rolls-Royce by WALD.
Having mentioned that the VIP trend has slowed down, those into “bling bling” accessories filled up the booth belonging to DAD Automotive that featured “diamond” dress-up themes that made you think of iPhone accessories.
While the Auto Salon feels more like an aftermarket event, a good number of auto manufacturers were also present. Apart from Toyota, there was Honda, Mazda, Nissan, Suzuki and even commercial vehicle giant Isuzu. And apart from passenger cars, there were other types of vehicles being highlighted, including commercial vehicles and motorcycles.
Of course, an important attraction at the Auto Salon was the large number of booth babes who seemed to grab equal attention from visitors and photographers as the cars on display. However, don’t fret: the girls weren’t as gorgeous or sexy as those gracing previous salons. Insiders said a large population of auto show pretties had migrated to other professions, which are better-paying.
Making their mark at the show this year were the four A-Class Girls from Thailand, who have quickly earned celebrity status in Japan with a strong fan club following.
The popularity of the Auto Salon has been increasing in Asia, and in 2012 it was held overseas for the first time in Bangkok. Organisers have confirmed that the 2013 event will be held here in June. The event will also be held for the first time in Singapore – in April – at the Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre.
Bangkok Auto Salon in June
A large number of exhibitors along with Japanese “booth babes” from the Tokyo Auto Salon will be taking part in the Bangkok Auto Salon to be held later this year, said Wiluck Lohtong, CEO of Inspire Entertainment and Siam Sport Syndicate, which will organise the event here.
The size of the Bangkok Auto Salon will also be doubled from the first year, when 700,000 people attended the event to check out the 250 vehicles on display, he said.
“With the Thai auto market achieving record sales of more than 1.4 million vehicles, we are confident that the accessories market will experience a sharp rise, since most of the growth involves first-time car buyers who are young and like to customise their vehicles in order to make them stand out from the crowd,” he said.
The organisers will spend Bt300 million on the event in June at the Impact Exhibition Centre. As many as 1 million visitors are expected, with the show area being increased to 40,000sqm and 400 exhibitors participating.