Auto shows used to be the darling of the car world, but no more. They're expensive to run, expensive to exhibit for automakers, and they haven't changed in decades. Essentially, manufacturers adhere to strict rules, set up pricey displays, and hope their wares elicit interest in car buyers. But attendance by both the public and exhibitors have dropped through the floor over the past decade. In a recent story by Automotive News, it seems the organizers of the most recent Tokyo Motor Show have turned things around by changing the way the show looks, feels, and runs, and it might just be the secret to success.

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The 2019 Tokyo Motor Show actually managed to exceed their expected attendance. The goal was a lofty 1 million attendees, but they managed to pull off 1.3 million over the course of eight days. This is in large part thanks to Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda who wanted to reinvent the Tokyo Motor Show to create more appeal. Given the fact that attendance has dropped over the past ten years was the impetus behind the changes, and pretty much all other international auto shows like Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Frankfurt, Paris, Geneva, and Shangai have seen decreasing numbers. 

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Five major brands have pulled out of most auto shows, and that's a bad sign.

The Tokyo Motor Show this year did a lot right. Instead of making it just a conventional auto show, it was turned into more of an automotive theme park with numerous experiences for attendees to see and feel. There were also giveaways, as well as free admission offered to students and kids. There were even such draws as girl pop singers, drift-driving demonstrations, and even drone races. Tech was almost as important as the cars themselves. 

Toyota built the open-top e Racer to draw a crowd. It worked.

It's this kind of thinking that gives auto shows hope. Bring in more people who are interested in more than just cars, and give it the appearance of actually having full attendance as a result, which is great for more publicity every year. The Detroit Auto Show is another example. Its move from the brutal winter of February to June this year could prove to be the thing that saves it and that promise may even result in more manufacturers attending. 

The big BMW electrification focus in Frankfurt is another way to focus on tech.

"You may have felt something a little different from usual this time," Toyoda stated. "If you found yourself happy to come this time, please look forward to the 2021 Tokyo Motor Show. ... We would like to propose something far beyond my imagination at the next motor show two years from now." We like what Toyoda has done, and we expect more shows will follow suit... if they want to hang on to their auto shows and not steer them toward extinction.