Tim O'Brien | Oct 12, 2008

One Australian International Motor Show?

Don't want to be seen ringing the bell too early, but not all appears hunky-dory with the Australian International Motor Show.

Crowd numbers over this weekend will tell the tale – it's the only meaningful measure of success – but with reports that FCAI supremo Andrew McKellar was looking a tad glum on it all, and with a somewhat less-than-enthused reaction by the motoring media at the Show launch, things do not bode well for the Sydney Show's future.

What it means for the Melbourne International Motor Show, staged by VACC and one of the world's longest-running motor shows, is uncertain.

This year, as many of you are doubtless aware, a number of the European manufacturers have made their position clear: they don't want two major motor shows in this country – full stop. And if there are two shows, they'll only show up at one, if at all.

melbourne-exhibition-centre

BMW spokesman Toni Andreevski is reported as commenting that if Frankfurt and Paris can alternate, year about, on one of the two key European Motor Shows (Geneva being the other), then Melbourne and Sydney should be able to do likewise.

Ford, from comments gleaned from previous head honcho, Bill 'disappearing act' Osborne, is believed to also favour just one major 'Australian International Motor Show'. The lack-lustre, low-rent Ford stand at Sydney this year would seem to indicate that money was being squeezed through a pretty thin pipe for the Ford effort.

Of more concern though is that so many European manufacturers have 'spoken' with their feet at the Sydney event. But rather than walking out the door, they've refused to walk in. As you are probably aware by now, conspicuous by their absence are BMW, Mercedes Benz, Smart, Fiat, Proton, Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin, Saab, Citroen, Rolls Royce, Audi, Jaguar, Bentley, Porsche, Hummer, Land Rover, Mini, SSangYong… (you get the picture).

Well, let's be even more precise: one European manufacturer who chose not to front, was not entirely missing. Audi, although not part of the Sydney Show, made sure that it didn't miss the benefit of Motor Show crowds milling through Darling Harbour. Barely 100 metres away from the exhibition it had the Audi R8 on display in an expensive bespoke glass container, right at the waterfront.

sydney-convention-centre

(Smart move, sure, but was Audi also bludging off the investment by FCAI in staging the event? Perhaps it's just me, but Audi's actions look slippery and churlish to these eyes. I'd reckon FCAI, and Audi's fellow FCAI members, have reason to be less-than impressed.)

At issue is the immense cost to manufacturers and importers of having to stage two motor show displays annually for the relatively small Australian car market. It would be logical then, one would think, for the Australian International Motor Show to alternate between Melbourne and Sydney – year about – such as occurs with Frankfurt and Paris.

But would it? The Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre at Darling Harbour is showing its age: its corners and alcoves are less suited to a large stadium-filling event like the Australian International Motor Show. The Melbourne Exhibition Centre, larger now than the Darling Harbour venue, is due to soon be extended (a promise by the Brumby Government in Victoria). It is also cheek by jowl with the massive new Melbourne Convention Centre. Is this the best motor show venue in the Australasian region? And should it carry the Australian International Motor Show crown?

Hmm. It would require a special kind of bravery to deny Sydney a Motor Show, especially as it traditionally attracts greater numbers than the Melbourne event.

Food for thought fellow time-travellers. It may be a case of 'watch this space'.