Earlier this year, we learnt that the 2010 British International motor show had been cancelled. The organisers had taken the extraordinary step of axing the show, due to low commitment from the car industry, thanks in part to the recession that was sweeping the world. And while they are saying that there will be another show in the future, I’m not holding my breath
Yet, walking around the Frankfurt show last month, there were few real signs of the recession. There were still the lavish show stands, albeit on a smaller scale than previous years, but they were grand, nonetheless. There were well over 50 new models and concept vehicles on display – a sharp contrast to the pitiful few that the UK show conjured up.
At a recent car launch, the dinner table conversation turned to why the UK can’t seem to generate enough support for its own British motor show. While the cost to exhibit is obviously an important factor to any car maker, why is that the Geneva and Frankfurt events attract all the major manufacturers, when the London motor show at ExCeL got snubbed by many important makers like Volkswagen, BMW and Audi. It must cost similar amounts of money to attend the European shows, if not more, so why is the UK market seen as different, and deemed less important? The stock answer from the company’s PR departments is that the marketing budget could be better used elsewhere. So why should that not be the case for Frankfurt, Paris and Geneva? After all, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.
These comparisons set me thinking as to why Geneva and Frankfurt can attract the car makers and world launches, yet London, one of the premiere cities in the world, fails to secure the same level of commitment. Vauxhall, often thought of as a British brand, despite being owned by American General Motors, has shown its support for the UK show, launching its all-new Corsa at the expo in 2006 and the Vectra replacement, the Insignia, in 2008. So if a European car maker like Opel-Vauxhall can support the London show, why couldn’t others? And it isn’t as if new models weren’t available to be launched – it’s just that the makers took the decision to unveil them at a different time, often just weeks before or after the London show.
Maybe the time of the year is a factor? In years gone by, the British show was in October, but organisers moved it forward to the summer, sandwiched between the Geneva show in March and the alternating Paris and Frankfurt shows in September. Organisers thought they could attract a crop of debutees, in the middle ground between the European shows, but failed, still attracting meagre numbers. Maybe the show needs to be an annual event, or perhaps collaborating with another European city to offer an alternating bi-annual show – a bit like Paris does with Frankfurt. Is the location a problem? We often hear that hosting the show in the south east of England is a problem for the rest of the UK, and it would be better if it was held in the middle of the country. While that would mean that it would make it easier for people in the rest of England to visit, would they actually bother to turn up?
Attendee figures while the show was at Birmingham – close to the centre of England – would suggest otherwise. And although the ExCeL centre is far from an ideal venue, due to its small size, it is based in the capital, which is needed for the show to retain the little kudos that remains. The NEC in Birmingham is undoubtedly an excellent venue, it is just a shame that a similarly sized site doesn’t exist in London.
One area of concern surrounds the lack of publicity by organisers and motor manufacturers. When visiting the Frankfurt show last month, everywhere you went in the city, you were aware that the show was on – hoardings and flags advertising the show, and the debutees at the event. Yet, when the British show has been on at the ExCeL centre, if you ventured just outside of the exhibition site, there were few signs to suggest that anything was going on. Where were the car themed events in Central London and around the UK? Where were the advertisements in Oxford Street, the shopping mecca of the West End? That needs to change if we are to make the most of a British event.
I would love to hear your points of view on this subject. Please get in touch and make your thoughts known. Maybe by putting our heads together, we can come up with a motor show that Britain can be proud of. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or post up your ideas on our website at www.whatdiesel.co.uk.