Australian Motoring Festival Signs First Brands, Others Steering Clear Photo:
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Mike Stevens | Feb, 12 2015 | 7 Comments

The Australian Motoring Festival, a joint initiative by the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce and the RACV, has announced the first three carmakers that will show their wares at next month’s inaugural event.

Toyota has come on board as the first ‘volume-selling’ brand to join the festival, while Mercedes-Benz will cater to the premium market.

For buyers and showgoers with a taste for truly exotic metal, Italian supercar company Ferrari has also signed on.

The festival, to be held at the Royal Melbourne Showgrounds, promises an “unparalleled” interactive event with driving experiences and family-friendly activities.

Exactly what each of the first three "feature brands" will offer showgoers is still to be confirmed, although Ferrari Australasia CEO Herbert Appleroth has offered a few clues.

“Our Ferrari Experience display area will feature 30 years of Ferrari supercar history and a stunning Ferrari showroom with the latest range of Ferrari roadcars,” Mr Appleroth said.

It’s unclear at this stage if Ferrari will be among those brands offering “driving experiences” to fans and hopeful buyers.

Toyota and Mercedes-Benz are both expected to offer an interactive in-car experience, however.

“The Australian Motoring Festival will be a great opportunity to let motoring enthusiasts look, feel and touch all the different vehicles in our extensive range and experience the technology in an interesting, interactive environment,” Toyota Australia’s Southern Regional Manager, Stephen Slater, said.

Mercedes-Benz Australia CEO, Horst von Sanden promised a similar experience for showgoers, describing the event as “an excellent platform” for the brand.

“We will be featuring Mercedes-AMG models and the Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy during the festival, along with a few surprise vehicles,” he said.

Speaking with TMR today, Mercedes-Benz Australia spokesperson David McCarthy said that the decision to show at the festival was driven by a number of factors, including location and what the show can offer carmakers and fans.

“I think location is a key factor, and the concept is a good one. Ultimately we decided that, on a cost and benefit level, there’s something to be gained here.”

“You’ve gotta be in it to win it,” he said.

But, despite VACC and RACV assurances that the Australian Motoring Festival's format has been built on the back of industry feedback, not all brands are sold on the idea.

Organisers for the Australian Motoring Festival say that more brands will be announced in the coming weeks, but ‘the blue oval’ won’t be among them.

Ford had previously suggested it would consider a commitment to the festival, but, speaking with TMR today, Ford Australia Brand Communications boss Neil McDonald confirmed that the carmaker will not be involved.

“As you know, we’ve adopted a model of taking our own shows to the road and that’s proven successful for us,” he said.

“We’re flattered that the Ford ‘Smart Drive’ concept we introduced at the 2012 Sydney motor show has now been adopted by others.”

“As a company we remain focused on providing our customers and prospective buyers with new and innovative real-world opportunities to experience our vehicles that go beyond the traditional auto shows.”

As a high-volume brand in the Australian automotive market, Ford’s absence could prove a stinging one for the event. Another key player, Mazda, is also unlikely to attend.

Speaking with TMR today, Mazda Australia’s marketing chief Alastair Doak said the company is not planning on getting involved.

Mazda’s marketing spend, he said, is focused on other areas such as print, television and an extensive sponsorship program.

Could next month's show give local fans their first up-close look at the new AMG GT?
Could next month's show give local fans their first up-close look at the new AMG GT?

Another important player, Subaru, is steering clear - although it will be watching on with interest.

“Subaru will monitor the event for future potential,” the brand’s corporate affairs manager, David Rowley, said today.

Holden and Nissan have both also confirmed that they will not be buying exhibitor space at the event, although Holden - like Ford - will be present in a smaller capacity as part of the VACC Design Awards.

At the premium end, Mercedes-Benz won’t have to worry about key rival BMW stealing its potential buyers away during the event.

“It’s unlikely that BMW will take part,” communications boss Lenore Fletcher told TMR.

“[For all brands], with so many diverse marketing options available today, it can be difficult to decide where to take that spend,” Ms Fletcher said, adding that for now, BMW will focus on its ongoing marketing campaigns.

The cost of a ‘lot’ at the AMF, a 300 square-metre space, is believed to be around $100,000 - significantly less than the multi-million-dollar spend of past Australian motor shows.

But, in the years since the global financial crisis and the eventual collapse of the Melbourne and Sydney motor shows, brands have found new ‘bang for buck’ ways to reach buyers. It seems not many are keen to return to the format, or similar ‘festival’ formats.

The Australian Motoring Festival isn’t the only big new auto show scheduled to hit Melbourne in 2015, with Sandown set to host a similarly ambitious event later this year.

But, while details of next month’s show are now surfacing, organisers for November’s MotorWorld are keeping quiet on what, and who, we can expect to see at their event.

Speaking with TMR today, Conrad Patrick, General Manager for Definitive Events, said that he would not confirm details, but that “discussions are well underway and those discussions are maturing”.

“We know that the industry doesn’t want two shows in one year, let alone both in the same state.”

“We’ve consulted with the market and we are confident that we have the right venue, the right timing,” he said.

“We are absolutely committed to our November 25 launch, and we will have announcements to make about sponsors and media partners in the future.”

The 2015 Australian Motoring Fesitval will be held in Melbourne on March 26 to March 29.

Standard ticket pricing for the event will be $60 for a family and $30 for singles. RACV members will be offered $40 tickets for family and $20 tickets for singles.

Showgoers can by tickets now at http://www.australianmotoringfestival.com.au and you can follow the event at facebook.com/australianmotoringfestival.

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