Association, Inc.

Issue No. 3, 2007

Corporate Showrooms

by Peter Nunn

Car showrooms are not what they used to be.  The oft-held view that the showroom is an exciting place full of bright, shiny new cars, but at the same time maybe just a little  intimidating as salesmen hover, waiting for you to sign on the dotted line, is starting to change.

In Tokyo today, there are a number of modern, hi-tech showrooms where there's no pressure to buy, or even any salesmen at work at all.  Just wander in, schmooze over the latest models, pick up a brochure and take it all from there.

Such a place is aMLUX, located in Tokyo's Ikebukuro district.  Set up by Toyota, aMLUX is a striking-looking modernist skyscraper designed to showcase the Toyota brand and domestic model line-up but in a cool, subtle way.  Meantime, should you actually want to buy a car, aMLUX staff will politely direct you to your nearest dealership.

Toyota has an even bigger facility in MEGAWEB, which is to be found in Daiba and could be the nearest thing there is to an automotive Disneyland.  The idea is that MEGAWEB is a fun place to visit all by itself.  Relax, go round and see the cars and other attractions at your own place. Then maybe later you’ll think about that new Toyota…

Other manufacturers are picking up on this soft-sell idea but on a smaller scale.  In Ginza’s upscale district, Nissan has not one but two outlets to showcase new models and tell visitors what's new and hot from the company.  Again, the idea with the showrooms is to enhance the brand and inform, rather than directly shift metal.

Honda, similarly, has a Welcome Plaza as part of its HQ in Aoyama.  Most days, a neat row of new Hondas are parked outside for anyone to get in and check out.  Inside, there are more cars and motorcycles on show and the imagery is all very up-to-the-minute.

Subaru, Daihatsu and Mitsubishi all have corporate showrooms in Tokyo as well.  To find Mazda’s, you need to travel across country to the company's HQ in Hiroshima.

Among Japan's import fraternity, both BMW Japan and Audi Japan have set up impressive brand-building centres in and around Harajuku/Omotesando, two of Tokyo's most attractive, fashionable areas.  Audi's in particular, in the seven-story Iceberg building, is totally in keeping with Tokyo’s profile as one of the most vibrant, hi-tech cities around, and really is something to see.

Behind the glamour, however, lies the reality that rebuilding confidence and sales in Japan's currently depressed vehicle market will be no quick or easy task.  But bright and innovative showrooms are one route to getting there, taking the confrontation out of the car-buying process while enhancing the brand—all at the same time.