The view that Japan is a weird place full of “adorably mad” machines is strongly reinforced by international press coverage of this year’s Tokyo Motor Show.
“Stay strange, Tokyo” began an article by the journalist Jeremy Korzeniewski, who compiled a comprehensive report on the event on Autoblog. He explains that “the Tokyo Motor Show never fails to show off the weird, wacky, and wild side of the automotive industry.”
The biennial show is focused on concept cars, so most vehicles are not designed for daily use but are offered as ideas for the future. The website of the popular BBC motoring show Top Gear has many pages of pictures and reports about delightfully eccentric machines. Top Gear heaps special praise on the “adorably mad” concepts of Suzuki. Other websites such as Jalopnic reckon Mazda “stole the show.”
The Daily Telegraph said that that “the planet is receiving its biennial boost of Japanese weirdness, from crazy concept cars through to the most implausible mobility technology.” This stereotype of the Japanese as strange, wacky, weird and crazy is reinforced by the photographs on many websites which include pretty female models posing beside the cars. Some sites, such as Autoguide, baited their readers with pictures of “the weirdest and wildest cars” including a big slideshow by the photographer Dino Dalle Carbonare.
The PR people from the Japanese car makers have plenty of stories to feed the foreign journalists at the show. Toyota has claimed its new concept vehicle can “understand” drivers so that the machines and users can “bond as partners.”
According to AFP “Concept-i is a futuristic four-wheel model that reviews the person’s behaviour patterns, as well as latest news and social media activity, to assess what the driver needs or wants to hear in a given situation, like offering comforting words to a parent after a fight with a teenage daughter inside the vehicle.”
The carmakers hope the positive coverage of the motor show will counterbalance the recent negative publicity about safety scandals including problems at Nissan and Kobe Steel.
Concept cars are fun to write about but Japan also wants to be trusted. So manufacturers should be pleased with a report on the performance of their ordinary cars in What Car magazine. It said that half the most reliable cars sold in the UK are Japanese.