Several Japanese automakers pulled out of the Detroit show and the Detroit Three have all now confirmed none will attend this year’s Tokyo show in October.

Attending the show is “not one of our highest priorities”, a Ford spokesman said, echoing the view at GM and Chrysler.

The news throws the status of the 2009 Japanese show into further doubt. Earlier in the week, there were reports that the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA), which organises the show, was considering cancelling or scaling down the biennial event.

One Japanese automaker, Nissan, has hinted that it might pull out of the show, and has been reported as saying it might not exhibit at any global shows this year. Nissan was also absent from Detroit.

The US automakers have a negligible market presence in Japan, where imports account for just 6% of the market. Volkswagen is the market-leading foreigner.

GM and Ford are focusing their Asian efforts on China, where they do not face the same level of restrictions thanks to their local manufacturing joint ventures. Both are slated to attend the Shanghai show in April. GM sells around 1m vehicles a year in China and Ford about 300,000.

A source at a Japanese automaker’s UK unit said the company doubted JAMA would axe the show entirely, as, like any of the big international events, it was also a huge showroom attracting potential retail buyers from the local region, and beyond, as well as an industry gathering.

To prove the point, Detroit region dealers this week rallied together to represent automakers who had cancelled show appearances, supplying vehicles from their own stocks to fill empty stands.

The opportunity to attract potential custom from a captive audience in a warm, snow-free Cobo Hall was apparently too good to pass up.