Sydney, Melbourne shows to alternate from 2009
Next year's Sydney motor show in doubt as FCAI and VACC negotiate one annual show
14 Oct 2008
CONCLUSION of a deal that would see a single Australian International Motor Show (AIMS) hosted by Sydney and Melbourne on alternate years is just months away.
Next year’s AIMS in Sydney could be the first casualty of the agreement, with the 2009 Melbourne show already locked in.
The move to a single alternating show recently gained momentum with the big three local manufacturers throwing their conditional support behind the proposal.
Previously Ford, Toyota and Holden had argued for the status quo to continue, but a new enthusiasm for cost-cutting as well as the detraction of several prestige brands has led to a rethink.
The Australian manufacturers have said they would support the new deal, but want to see the fine print before agreeing.
A senior source from a local manufacturer also told GoAuto that the crowd numbers from this year’s Sydney show could help speed up a decision to switch to a new alternating show.
According the source, initial attendance figures for the show’s first weekend are well down on last year, which may be partly due to the Bathurst endurance race being held on the first weekend of the show rather than the second, as has been the case previously.
Senior officials of the two groups organising the shows, including the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce (VACC), which runs the Melbourne event, and the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), which organises the Sydney event, told GoAuto last week that they have resolved to working together to find a solution to the current crisis that saw marques including Audi, BMW, Porsche and Mercedes-Benz boycott the Sydney event.
Melbourne International Motor Show director Russ Tyrie told GoAuto that an agreement was likely to be reached in “a matter of months”.
“The short answer is that there isn’t (an exact resolution date) but there is a genuine resolve to move it as quickly as we can,” he said. “There has been talk for three months, it really is just how it can be pulled together.
“There is a resolve to come up with a sustainable model, but what that model is…” FCAI chief executive Andrew McKellar told GoAuto: “At this stage all I can say is that there are several major options on the table.
“Those haven’t been resolved and there are pros and cons for and against each of those options, so we’re working through those,” he said.
While there is a lot of detail to be worked through, GoAuto sources have confirmed the only real model that has a reasonable chance of success is the one that will see Melbourne hosting the show one year and Sydney hosting it the next.
Left: FCAI chief executive Andrew McKellar.
This would be similar in effect to the Frankfurt and Paris motor shows that run on alternate years.
Some of the details yet to be thrashed out include several existing contracts including those with venues that have been locked in for around five years into the future.
Mr McKellar confirmed that both the FCAI and VACC were committed to finding a sustainable solution, and had been doing so before the current economic downturn.
“Putting that (the economic situation) aside, there’s a recognition that staging a very high quality, large scale international motor show is expensive for the brands and everyone is very focused on ensuring we do these things in a cost-effective way and we attract a maximum audience and that we don’t undermine the broader brand image of the industry,” he said.
“My assessment of it would be there’s a consensus across the industry and an acceptance across the industry that we need a more sustainable model.” Mr McKellar said both parties were looking at effects of skipping an event in either city.
“I think really it’s a matter of trying to work out how we rationalise or get to a situation where we do have potentially one major event,” he said.
“But then I think it’s also important that we don’t undermine the presence of the industry in the other major market and that’s what we’ve got to look at – how you balance those two things because whether it’s Sydney or Melbourne you have the two biggest regional markets in the country and at each show you want to bring through anywhere between 200,000 and 250,000-plus people top gain a greater exposure to the industry, many of whom are looking at buying a new car and want to inform themselves or who want to have a connection with the brands or the industry.
And that’s obviously something we want to encourage.
“So it’s difficult to vacate the field entirely. How we square the circle in that regard is what’s under discussion, so really at this stage I can’t say any more than that.” GoAuto sources suggest that one solution to this problem being canvassed is for a city to host a regional show in the year that the other city is hosting the main event.
Mr McKellar said the FCAI and the VACC had put aside their past differences in order to work on a solution.
“For years now there’s been this sort of standoff between the organisations because of their vested interests and to some extent it’s been difficult to do, but what we’ve done constructively this year is largely put that aside and sat down and talked about these things,” he said. “There’s a genuine mutual desire to resolve this.” Mr McKellar said both parties needed to come up with a package that was right for them and the industry.
“At the end of the day if it doesn’t work for the industry then it’s not going to be sustainable. Whatever the outcome it has to be a cooperative agreement because we can’t afford to be sitting in our trenches with a narrow financial interest for either the chamber of the VACC and saying we can’t afford to possible move,” he said.
“We’re just about over that first hurdle. We’ve got to cooperate for the benefit of the industry, and that means somehow or other we’ve got to craft a joint-interest outcome at to how we stage events in the future.” Mr Tyrie conceded that the current situation, with major manufacturers withdrawing from events was not ideal. He added that while the FCAI and VACC were determined to come up with a solution, it was not easy.
“That is not good for the industry, (the discussion) it is moving, but as I say it is not as easy as turning a page and saying look there is an all-singing, all-dancing way to schedule motor shows,” Mr Tyrie said.
Mr McKellar branded the current Sydney show a success despite the fact that several prominent brands were missing.
“Clearly there are some brands that are not participating here for various reasons, but nonetheless I think we’ve put on a great show with great products and great concepts,” he said.
Mr McKellar would not comment on the opening weekend attendance figures, stating that the figures would be collated at the end of the 10-day event.
However, Mr McKellar did say he hoped Bathurst fans would come to the motor show this weekend.
“We would be very hopeful that some people who went to the race or stayed at home to watch it would come to the show,” he said.
If the new alternating motor show plan was approved by all parties, it is not clear when it would be put into effect. If an agreement is reached quickly, there is a chance that next year’s Sydney show will not go ahead in October.
Another scenario is that the first year of the new program would be 2010.
Audi Australia managing director Joerg Hofmann said he expected the alternating show program to be introduced next year. He indicated the premium German car-makers were not about to back down on their demand that there be one Australian show a year.
“For the first time we have an agreement to stand together and say this is ridiculous,” he said. “One major national show is enough in a nation of 20 million.” He said it costs Audi an average of $1.5 million to attend a show. “We can do a lot else with that money,” he said. “It is a big investment for limited return.”
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