Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Tuesday, January 6, 2004

Vroom, vroom!

by Ashok Ashta

With the Indian Auto Expo scheduled to kick off on January 15, I can't help but share my experiences at the Tokyo Motor Show last year. Along with the Frankfurt and Detroit events - the latter being on right now - the Tokyo expo is one of three major motor shows in the world.

Even as I rode the bus from Narita Airport to Tokyo, I couldn't help but notice being surrounded by the latest models on the crowded highway. The cars in use were in immaculate condition, their exteriors gleaming. One can easily be misled to believe that the motor show starts on the highway.

From Tokyo, I took the train to Makuhari Messe, the venue of the exhibition. The organizers ensured that their recommended entrance brings the visitor first to the two-wheeler pavilions. Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Yamaha along with foreign makes like Harley Davidson were all there. Once one moves towards the main attraction, 4-wheel passenger car section, the heartbeat gets faster.

Here, you find state-of-the-art pavilion design displaying next-generation models and technologies. Yes, I did find the current generation Mayback, the newly launched Odyssey and the latest in hybrid technology, Prius, also on display. However, what truly blows one's mind away is the journey through the future, which almost all pavilions make you experience: Toyota Fine N, Lexus LFS, Daihatsu's Tanto, Honda's Kiwami and Suzuki's S-Ride, just to name a few examples of the gleaming future.

With ecology as the theme at the expo, fuel cell technology was another major theme on display. A full-day wasn't sufficient to absorb the depth of the show. Walking back to the station, I was reminded of our won biennial Auto Expo held in Delhi, which its organizers advertise as 'the largest automotive show in Asia'.

I recalled the opening of the last one held in January 2002. anybody who is somebody in industry was there. Alas, the presence of the powers that be could not ensure that power would be - the lights went out. While the exhibitors ground their teeth, the organizers at Delhi did not seem to care too much.

One hopes that the 7th Auto Expo in Delhi does not turn out to be such an embarrassment. I do not know how many of the domestic auto manufactures will participate after that experience of opening day last time. However, I do hope that organizers work on the basic infrastructure front to ensure a 100 per cent participation of companies operating in the domestic market. It is necessary that our won motor show becomes a truly national event quickly, the first step towards becoming a recognized international motor show.

Ashok Ashta is President of BUSINESS-INDIA/JAPAN, a private enterprise promoting Indo-Japanese Cultural and Business relations.

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