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GM, Ford and Chrysler say sayonara, Tokyo

January 14, 2009 |  6:39 pm

Tokyomotorshow There were some notable absences at this year's Detroit auto show, including Nissan, Suzuki and Ferrari. Now comes word that all three major U.S. automakers are pulling out of the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show.

It's the latest sign that a bad economy and crashing sales are disrupting the industry on an international scale. Word of the three U.S. car companies’ withdrawal from Tokyo prompted speculation that the show might be canceled. But a spokesman for the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Assn. told reporters Wednesday that the show would continue.

The biannual 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 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 was pulling out too.

Chrysler’s Deneau said the company would still participate in next month’s Chicago Auto Show, the Geneva Motor Show in March, April’s New York International Auto Show and the 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.”

-- Ken Bensinger

Photo: A model poses with a Toyota concept car at the 40th Tokyo Motor Show in October 2007. Credit: Haruyoshi Yamaguchi/Bloomberg News