News that Tokyo Auto Salon (TAS), the world's largest auto exhibition, was coming to Singapore was released two weeks ago, and the official press conference was held Thursday.
This is the first time that MediaCorp is organising an automotive exhibition and one of the reasons why they agreed to do it was the high viewership ratings during the Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix.
With a 70 per cent stake in this initiative, MediaCorp is co-organising TAS Singapore with MUSE Group.
Tobe Hidetaka, head of sports segment strategic marketing at MediaCorp elaborated, “We looked at the TV audience on Channel 5 and the Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix had the highest ratings. This confirms that there is an underlying motorsport- or motoring-related desire in Singapore.”
Coming on 12–14 April at Marina Bay Sands (MBS) Expo and Convention Centre, Halls A to B will be occupied by mouth-watering showcases of cars, including some prominent ones from Japan.
Expect at least 20 of the top Japanese tuners to be at TAS Singapore, such as Mugen, Tommy Kaira, Top Fuel and Amuse among the targeted 200 cars on display.
There will also be Japanese race queens, an autostyling competition, Japanese anime cosplay showcase and more.
Organisers are ambitiously aiming for 100,000 visitors over the three days.
Speaking to Tobe and Chung See Liang, president of MUSE Group, in an interview after the press conference, they told me that one of the initial thoughts was to bring TAS and D1 Grand Prix (D1GP) to Singapore together.
That would have been a Japanese power combination – TAS is the popular automotive aftermarket exhibition and D1GP is the professional drifting series from Japan.
However, both parties decided to take things one step at a time and focus on bringing TAS to Singapore first.
“It is important to position TAS properly first and hold it at the right venue, hence we selected MBS. We are positioning TAS as a premium product and the decision was made to just work on TAS first. Holding TAS at MBS also means not having an outdoor arena to hold D1GP,” said Tobe.
Chung added, “Usually convention halls have nothing much around it, but MBS offers many things to do. We are not targeting just the typical car fans, but we want to reach a wider target, including those tourists who are visiting Singapore.”
The plan to bring D1GP has been put aside, but only temporarily. In future, there may be a possibility that it might come to Singapore, with or without TAS.
Chung (C) and Tobe (T) then shared more about how the idea of TAS Singapore came about.
Q: How did the idea of bringing TAS to Singapore come about?
C: Discussions to bring TAS to Singapore started sometime in June last year. San-Ei Shobo Publishing (organiser of TAS) has always had a very domestic approach and is not proactive in expanding outside of Japan. However, they are open to bringing their products outside of Japan if presented with the right opportunity. Through my contacts and knowledge of the product, I approached them with this idea and we started talking. MUSE Group works closely with San-Ei as we are involved in D1GP in Japan as a consultant, helping to take it outside of Japan, and D1GP is under San-Ei as well.
Q: How did MediaCorp get involved?
T: MediaCorp and MUSE already had a working relationship, putting together Sasuke Singapore and RaceMe, the soap box derby. MUSE shared this idea with us and around November, we all came to an understanding to bring TAS to Singapore.
It took a long time to work out the logistics and decide for sure if we should bring this to Singapore. It is not just about shipping cars over to display, but we have to work out the venue, the transport and the fringe activities. We have to think if the format will work. It is a complete package of exhibition and entertainment. It cost a lot of money (an amount we can’t disclose) to do this and hence we needed to have in-depth discussions. We had to find a suitable venue and then check its availability.
Q: Why call it Tokyo Auto Salon Singapore and not coin a local brand instead?
C: We decided to bring TAS as it is, on a compact scale, instead of just licensing the rights and making it Singapore International Auto Salon or something. Anyway, there was a Singapore Auto Salon once and we didn’t want to confuse with it. Our intention is not to create a Singapore product but to bring a Japanese product to Singapore.
We want to bring the TAS experience to Singapore, to those who have not had the chance to see it. We wanted to re-energise the local automotive market as there are not many car shows in Singapore these days. We don’t want to just borrow the TAS name but we have to be careful and ensure that we correctly portray what the brand represents.
Q: How has the response been so far?
C: The response has been very good so far from both the general public and people in the industry. While I can’t give you exact numbers, I can say that a large part of the booths have been sold. We have at least 20 Japanese show cars coming, along with Japanese tuners and race queens, but we also have local companies and even businesses from around the region are keen. The signs have been very encouraging.
Q: What is the advertising budget like?
C: I daresay no car shows in Singapore will be going out this big. The A&P will be on a scale impossible for any event organiser to achieve on their own. Only MediaCorp can do it and they can go out full force since this is their own project.
T: You can expect a significant amount of exposure across all our platforms. I’m not at liberty to reveal how much advertising dollars we are putting in, but we will be promoting this event on all our media assets, including TV, newspapers, magazines, radio and digital platforms. MediaCorp artistes will be making appearances too. As you can see, we had Yasminne Cheng from Class 95FM to host our press conference. That’s the kind of involvement you will see from us as well.
Q: The authorities have been clamping down hard on illegally modified vehicles in Singapore, causing many to give up their passion for vehicle modifications. Will holding TAS Singapore be encouraging vehicle modifications?
C: If you to go TAS, you will see that there are street legal cars and non-street legal cars. There are some cars that are done up so outrageously that they are purely for showcase and not for road use. The show is about creativity. Japan has strict rules on vehicle modifications as well.
We are not asking you to do outrageous things to your car, but there are other legal things you can do. A lot of people get excited and the general mindset is that modifying your vehicle is bad. Modifying of vehicles need not be illegal, but can be done within a safety framework. People tend to misunderstand things – I mean at a fashion show with models half naked, the designers are showing their works and not encouraging people to walk around half naked. Likewise, this is a showcase of creativity and technical prowess.
Q: It’s a huge investment, what returns are you hoping to get?
T: Audience engagement. This is a good platform to engage people interested in cars and motorsports. Motorsport events require a circuit and Singapore has none, hence limiting the options to engage people in motorsport. This is not a motorsport event and it can reach out a far broader audience. It’s not just about fast cars, but also about personalisation.
Q: What are the future plans?
C: It is not a one-off event and we are hoping to keep bringing it back. The TAS franchise is on a renewable contract. Like any investment, it is not about making a quick buck. There are no firm plans to take it to the region but it is within our view.
Our targets, apart from money, are visitor numbers and local participation. We want people to come as that is a good indicator of success. We also want local participation to be high, such as having the garages and car distributors in Singapore involved. Ideally, we want everyone in the car industry involved.
T: It’s too big an event to be one-off. We want this to be a long-term project and it will be hard to be long-term if the local people do not support. It is not about the dollars and cents, but about creating something that will last forever.
Tokyo Auto Salon Singapore 2013
Dates: 12 – 14 April
Time: 10.00 am – 10.00 pm daily
Venue: Sands Expo and Convention Centre, Marina Bay Sands Hall A to C, Level 1
1 day pass – Adult $25, Children (under 12) $10
3 day pass – $70
Passionate about cars and motorsports, Cheryl Tay is a familiar face in prominent local, regional as well as international automotive titles. More of her at www.cheryl-tay.com.