Each of the American automakers made sure to exhibit at this year's Tokyo Auto Show. With good reason. They've been giddily expanding their Asian operations in recent months, sensing their first chance in years to penetrate the tough Japanese domestic market. Import sales in Japan have nearly quadrupled since 1984, partly because of the rising yen and partly because the Japanese have relaxed the tariffs and other barriers that long kept imports out.

Exhibiting at the show is ``a matter of prestige,'' explained Mike Hammes, head of Chrysler's International Operations, as he surveyed the automaker's display.

General Motors came in for criticism for an ``uninspired'' exhibit, its first independent exhibit in Tokyo in a decade. It featured some of the automaker's more traditional designs, including several Cadillacs and a boxy Buick.

GM's most innovative feature was the sleek, Buick Essence concept car. But even that vehicle has already been used extensively on the US auto show circuit.

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