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Major U.S. automakers pull out of Tokyo Motor Show

The move by General Motors, Ford and Chrysler is the latest sign that a bad economy and crashing sales are disrupting the industry on an international scale.

January 15, 2009|Ken Bensinger

All three major U.S. automakers are pulling out of the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show, the latest sign that a bad economy and crashing sales are disrupting the industry on an international scale.

The gathering, scheduled for October, is one of the auto world's premiere events, where cutting-edge vehicle designs are showcased for a technology-savvy crowd. By pulling out, General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler are making a dramatic statement about the kinds of expenditures that are possible in the current climate.

Last month, the federal government agreed to extend $17.4 billion in loan guarantees to GM and Chrysler and may lend them more after March. Ford did not take government loans but left open the possibility of doing so if the economy and sales do not improve.

Rick Brown, president of GM's Asia Pacific division, said Wednesday that rather than exhibit in Tokyo, the company would focus on sales.

"The money which would have gone into the show will have been better spent on local marketing," he said.

Chrysler spokesman Rick Deneau also confirmed his company's pullout. He said Chrysler had made the decision some time ago, but did not say when. Ford spokesman Mark Truby said Ford would not attend either.

The news came on the fourth day of Detroit's North American International Auto Show, which runs through Jan. 25. Because of the industry's troubles, six automakers -- including Nissan Motor Co., Suzuki Motor Corp. and Ferrari -- pulled out of that show.

Automakers that did participate showed fewer concept cars and spent less on promotions and marketing. GM, for example, did not use a costly elevated floor for its exhibition and just showed its cars on carpeting. Chrysler chose not to install a waterfall it has long used for its Jeep exhibit.

Word of the three U.S. car companies' withdrawal from Tokyo prompted speculation that the show would be canceled. But a spokesman for the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Assn. told reporters Wednesday that the show would continue regardless.

Chrysler's Deneau said the company would still participate in next month's Chicago Auto Show, the Geneva Motor Show in March, the New York International Auto Show in April and Germany's Frankfurt Motor Show in September. GM confirmed participation in those shows as well.

"The shame of losing Tokyo is that it was an international show," Deneau said. "But certainly, it's not a small expense."

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ken.bensinger@latimes.com

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