December 3, 2011
And They’re Off!
Dec. 3 – Tokyo – A total of 101,000 visitors flooded Tokyo Big Sight from Saturday morning, as the 42nd Tokyo Motor Show opened its doors to the general public. Returning to the capital city after 24 years seems to improve visitor count for the show, as attendance on the first day was 60% higher than in 2009.
Car enthusiasts – many couples and families – wove their way between exhibitors stands, gawking at premiere vehicles and the latest concept cars.
At the Nissan stand, visitors swarmed around the LEAF, eager to see the electric vehicle that won big in the afternoon: 2011-2012 Japan Car of the Year.
A child sat in the driver’s seat while his concerned mother asked an attendant nearby if the LEAF’s gear shift – a glowing blue knob – might be too easily moved by the small hands of her curious son.
Such scenes are the raisons d’êtres of the show.
“There are nearly 9,000 Nissan LEAFs on Japan’s roads, but the number of people who have interacted with the Nissan LEAF is very small,” says Hideaki Watanabe, head of Nissan’s zero-emission business unit, the division behind the LEAF’s development – and its success.
“They are very interested, and curious, and they are looking at the future connection with society.”
EVs and hybrids abound at this year’s show, with new models crowding the stages of Japan’s three top carmakers – in the hopes that this trend toward greater fuel-economy and sustainability resonates with customers.
“It’s a no brainer that the EV would win Car of the Year,” says Keisuke Arai, a regular visitor to Tokyo Motor Shows. “And it’s a good thing for Nissan.”
Two friends – Akinori Ito and Futoi Matsuyama – finished their LEAF test drive in time to watch the votes being tallied of J-COTY contenders.
Ito, who has a Porsche Boxer in his garage at home, would consider LEAF as a second car.
“It’s got great acceleration.” “And it’s so quiet!,” chimed in Matsuyama.
On whether the LEAF deserved to win, the friends agreed it did. “The LEAF has a very strong impact on people.”
Nissan Global Media Center