Organisers Upbeat, But Australian Motoring Festival Stalls Photo:
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2015 Australian Motoring Festival - Event Gallery Photo:
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Tony O'Kane | Apr, 01 2015 | 5 Comments

With the dust now settled on the inaugural Australian Motoring Festival, the examination of the exercise will no doubt run for more than the four days of the event.

Held at the the Melbourne Showgrounds, this new 'interactive' motoring event drew just 25,000 people through its gates - a quarter of the numbers initially expected by organisers.

And that will have RACV and VACC, the two bodies responsible for the staging of the event, as well as festival participants, thinking twice about its future.

Indeed, speaking in June last year, former VACC Executive Director David Purchase said the Festival had the potential to draw more than 100,000 people to the event.

“That’s a conservative estimate,” Mr Purchase said. “I would be bitterly disappointed if we did not see least 100,000”.

The final tally of 25,000 is well short of expectations, but, despite that disappointing number, the post-event response from VACC and RACV has been upbeat.

“The inaugural Australian Motoring Festival has been a fantastic event, and we’re especially pleased by the positive response we have received from the public over the course of the four days,” VACC Executive Director Geoff Gwilym said.

“We were pleased with the festival attendance, in light of facing a very busy event weekend in Melbourne with the ICC Cricket World Cup, the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show and the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.”

And though only five mainstream manufacturers were present - Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, Isuzu Ute, Volvo and Ferrari - the post-event reaction from them is also positive.

“Within our first hour on the first day, one customer saw the Toyota 86 on the stand and decided to head over to the local dealership to buy one on the spot," said Toyota Regional Marketing Manager Jeremy Watson.

"We’re looking forward to the event growing bigger and better in future years, and it was great to have the opportunity to be involved from year one.”

It would also appear that the Festival's hands-on focus proved popular with attendees.

Both Mercedes-Benz and Volvo offered short test drives on a compact circuit within the showgrounds. According to VACC, some 30 percent of showgoers participated in at least one of the test-drive activities on offer.

"The interactive element of this festival really was a highlight for us,” said Stuart Mitchell, Regional Business Manager at Volvo Australia.

“We’re really impressed with having the opportunity to get our cars in front of everybody at the festival, and give the public a chance to get inside the vehicles, go for a drive and experience our technology on the track firsthand."

While the festival's future as an on-going event will likely rest on both VACC's and RACV's capacity to wear a little pain through its 'teething years', the involvement of more manufacturers will be critical to its success, and to the event's future.

Speaking to TMR, Mercedes-Benz PR Manager Jerry Stamoulis said that attracting more people required more manufacturers to commit to the event.

"We would have loved to have seen more manufacturers there, because that would only promote the event further and bring more people to the event. If we had more manufacturers involved we’d get more people," Stamoulis said.

"As a manufacturer you’d never go into something like this thinking that the attendance rates will go very high when there’s only a handful of [other] manufacturers."

But despite the smaller than expected crowds, Stamoulis said the Australian Motoring Festival was a useful exercise in brand-building for Mercedes-Benz.

"Regardless of cost, we don’t really look at these types of events as providing a return on investment as such.

For us it was about providing a brand experience and from that perspective it was great for us."

However, the German automaker has yet to decide whether it will return for 2016.

"We’ll certainly be looking at it positively, but it’s just a little far for us to be making a decision just yet," he said.

The next similar exercise, MotorWorld, to be staged at Melbourne's Sandown Raceway in the last week of November this year, will be another test of the 'interactive' quasi-motor show concept.

To be staged by Definitive Events (who describe their event as an “interactive, experiential festival” utilising the “track”, “street”, and “off-road circuit”), it too has a target of 100,000 visitors.

One thing is certain, if MotorWorld is to get anywhere near its target numbers, it will need to get its message deeper into the enthusiast market than the Australian Motoring Festival managed to do.

(And strangely enough, that's to be found online... Ed.)

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