“Do motor shows have a future?” – Dan Balmer, Lotus Cars’ Regional Director, on his trip to Tokyo and Singapore


Dan Balmer is Lotus Cars’ Regional Director for Asia-Pacific and the Middle East, and in the last few days has been part of our presence at Tokyo Auto Salon and Singapore Motor Show. Here are his reflections on what he saw.

“It wasn’t so long ago that the typical car company marketing calendar was packed with a host of major ‘A-list’ motor shows – Detroit, Geneva, Frankfurt and others. Covid has wiped many of those events off the annual plans, but has the format died altogether as a way of selling cars? I went to find out.

Take last week’s Tokyo Auto Salon; once firmly positioned as a ‘Fast and Furious’-style event for the Japanese hardcore, it has now out-lasted the high-tech and more glossy Tokyo Motor Show. I entered the first of four halls at the Makuhari Messe and could see global brands side by side with larger-than-life tattooed tuners, all slick tyres and shiny big-bore exhaust displays. And there, proudly, stood Lotus with its first new car in 10 years, the Emira, perfectly timed to remind the enthusiastic Japanese sports car fans that Norfolk’s finest has not only survived the pandemic but come back with a bang.

The well-behaved queues of Japanese fans and customers who came to see the first production Emira in Japan were delighted to actually see two, perfectly proportioned beauties in Seneca Blue and Dark Verdant green. Our local importer, Lotus Cars Japan, created a well-positioned stand, and the recently opened Harajuku showroom in downtown Tokyo helped to heighten the mood ahead of the event. The delight and excitement on the faces of our customers was a true vindication of all the hard work. It’s been a long and testing road – but Lotus has delivered to market a car that is attracting Ferrari, McLaren and Porsche owners on top of its loyal fan base. They and we have longed for these moments and thankfully they are coming thick and fast now as my diary reveals.

Perhaps Tokyo Auto Salon isn’t quite the high-tech festival of wacky concept cars that Tokyo Motor Show used to be. Indeed, you might not expect the ‘Tokyo drift’ crowd to be accepting of BEVs at all – but not only do they accept it, they are embracing it. There were 330,000 weekend visitors, and for the like of Lotus it is about getting back to your roots and ‘selling’ cars off the stand.

Likewise, the smaller shows are thriving. The day before Tokyo, I attended the Singapore Motor Show, again bouncing back after three years’ break. It always was a dealer-activated event but you could forgive the retailers for not wanting to leave their showrooms in 2023. The local increases in taxation, registration and the high cost for a customer to even obtain the document which permits them buy a car could easily have killed this show off.

However, ‘kiasu’ – the need to compete and look forward with relentless positivity – is a very much a Singaporean thing, and so the excitement was palpable on press day at Suntec City. Not all major brands were present, but Lotus was, with the first production version of Emira for Singapore getting off a boat in the nick of time.

The team from our retailer partner Wearnes Singapore did a great job rounding up the media guests as I gave a short speech in the corner of a packed hall. I met many long-term depositors, eager to jump in the Emira and experience its genuinely luxurious and connected cabin.

‘Aiyoh’ said the Singaporeans in one collective expression of joy and relief – Lotus is back.

So, back to my opening question… has the motor show had its day as a way of selling cars? After a busy week at two motor shows I’m pleased to say the answer is… far from it. They are just smaller and, you could argue, more perfectly formed. For the fans who actually want to see a car – touch it, smell it, form their own opinion – they absolutely still can. While the top A-list shows have taken a beating, the B and C-list events stand proudly, with their own localised and niched fan base who actually buy cars. And that’s great news for the likes of Lotus.”