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British motor show axed for 2010

On the up: The 2008 British motor show attendance was up 14 per cent.

London follows Sydney’s lead as the UK’s largest motor show is cancelled

20 Mar 2009


THE next instalment of the UK’s largest motor show has been cancelled, and it may not be held again until 2013.

The “difficult decision” to draw the curtain on the 2010 British International Motor Show was announced yesterday (March 19) by show promoter, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

The peak UK automotive industry body blamed the global economic downturn and the inability of exhibitors to commit to the next running of the biennial British show, due to take place in July 2010.

The news also echoes moves made by organisers of the 2009 Brisbane International Motor Show, which was to have been held in February, and the 2009 Australian International Motor Show (AIMS) in Sydney, which was officially cancelled last month following low crowd and vehicle brand attendances numbers in October 2008.

While this October’s Tokyo motor show is no longer in doubt, the absence of many car-makers at January’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit and last November’s Los Angeles Auto Show was due to the sharp decline in US automotive sales.

In a similar arrangement to the Paris and Frankfurt motor shows, which unlike Switzerland’s annual Geneva motor show are held every second year, the AIMS will alternate from 2010 between Sydney and Melbourne, whose annual motor show also attracted a less enthusiastic following earlier this month.

However, last August’s instalment of the British show may be the last for five years.

“The British International Motor Show is the UK’s largest consumer exhibition, hugely popular with the public, and has been attracting increasing numbers of visitors over recent years, making the decision to cancel the 2010 show an extremely difficult one,” said SMMT chief executive Paul Everitt.

“However, the global credit crunch has placed the automotive sector under unique pressure and has created a level of uncertainty that deters manufacturers from committing to large-scale, international events.

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“The UK has a strong, diverse and highly competitive motor manufacturing industry, home to globally successful companies and iconic products admired around the world. Both SMMT and the industry are committed to displaying the achievements of the sector but in a way that better reflects the changing dynamics of the industry,” said Mr Everitt, who told the UK’s Autocar it was not clear when the next British motor show will be staged.

“When the economic situation improves we will be back, but the truth is that nobody knows when that will be. If there is an upturn in the next six months as sharp as the downturn has been in the past six months, then 2011 is possible. Realistically, though, it’s a date beyond that,” he said.

UK industry observers say it is extremely unlikely the British motor show will be held as scheduled in 2012, when it would clash with the London Olympics, making 2013 the earliest year in which it is realistically expected to be rescheduled.

Mr Everitt also forecast the British event’s format may change significantly, highlighting the fundamental difference between key global automotive industry fairs and customer-focussed national and regional motor shows.

“As a result of the cancellation we have time to consider what we want from a show,” he told Autocar. “We are committed to displaying the achievements of the industry, but perhaps in a different way than we have done previously.

“We want to look at other shows and decide where we want to go. Some are very good at attracting consumers, while others have set up as key strategic events for the manufacturers. We need to discuss what we want our focus to be,” said Mr Everitt.

First held in London in 1903, the British motor show has had a chequered history since it moved to the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in Birmingham in 1978, after which it ran every other year until 2004.

The show returned to London in 2006 and in 2008 also attracted higher levels of attendance, vehicle debuts and glamour, but last year’s event was notable for the absence of high-profile brands including Rolls-Royce, Volkswagen, Audi and BMW.

This week’s announcement by the SMMT was followed by more bad news today, when the SMMT released figures showing that UK automotive production has declined by more than 300,000 vehicles in the past 14 months.

The British motor industry manufactured less than 60,000 cars in February (59 per cent on the same month last year) to be a similar percentage down for the year, while UK commercial vehicle production was down 71.6 per cent down to be 65.7 per cent down so far in 2009.

Year-to-date, total UK vehicles production of 135,402 is down 59.7 per cent on 2007 figures.

“The large fall in February’s vehicle production is a direct result of weak demand and the need to protect the highly-skilled workforce and valuable industrial capability in the UK automotive sector,” said Mr Everitt, who reiterated his organisation’s calls for government to reform finance access and introduce a national vehicle recycling scheme to stimulate new-car sales.

“We have seen action to encourage longer-term investment, but still require government support for short-time working, easier access to finance and credit and the implementation of a vehicle scrappage scheme,” he said.

Read more:

Tokyo show in doubt

Official: 2009 Sydney motor show cancelled

Brisbane motor show cancelled

‘Scrap’ incentive mooted to boost car sales

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