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Jigsaw puzzle: A deal to alternate international motor shows between Sydney and Melbourne annually is all but done.

Sydney international motor show in doubt as deal struck to alternate with Melbourne

2 Dec 2008


AUSTRALIA’S most populous city may not host another world-class motor show for two years as part of a co-promotional deal that will see the Australian International Motor Show (AIMS) alternate between Sydney and Melbourne annually from 2010.

The staging of the 2009 Melbourne International Motor Show (MIMS) from February 27 is not in doubt, with organisers the Victorian Automotive Chamber of Commerce (VACC) saying floor space for the Exhibition Centre event is now almost fully subscribed.

However, the timing of the next AIMS in Sydney remains unknown as its promoter, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), denies claims the 2009 event has been cancelled and that suitable exhibition pricing and timing at the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre at Darling Harbour may not be forthcoming until 2011.

GoAuto has learned that an agreement has been struck between the FCAI and VACC to jointly promote both international-standard events on an alternating annual basis from 2010.

It is understood the rotating annual motor show arrangement, for which a number of high-profile luxury brands that boycotted October’s Sydney show have lobbied and which has more recently also gained the backing of many volume-selling brands, is yet to be signed off by the respective FCAI and VACC boards but will soon be made public.

June is the preferred month to host Australia’s sole annual international motor show, but GoAuto sources say the FCAI has so far been unable to secure cost-effective exhibition space at its traditional home at Darling Harbour at that time – either next year or in 2010.

Both show organisers and the volume brands support the idea of holding a retail-focused motor show in each city’s ‘off’ year, which would come at significantly lower cost to car companies by eliminating expensive presentations, video screens and other stand infrastructure.

If adequately supported by the major automotive brands, such retail shows could take place in Melbourne and Sydney every other year, with Homebush having been mooted as a possibility for the latter.

It is understood the FCAI may use the prospect of staging no motor show at all in Sydney in 2009 and 2010 as leverage to secure cost-effective mid-year exhibition space at the Darling Harbour centre.

Either way, while FCAI chief executive Andrew McKellar will not confirm it, it appears that Sydney will not host an international motor show next year and that Melbourne could also host the 2010 Australian International Motor Show, relinquishing Sydney of the title for two consecutive years.

Mr McKellar said that in the wake of a poor 2008 AIMS crowd attendance the FCAI was continuing to develop a “sustainable” motor show model that provided the greatest benefit to the car industry overall.

Official attendance figures for the October event remain undisclosed, but GoAuto understands it attracted just 138,000 patrons over its 10 days – similar to the number attracted by Brisbane’s motor show and well down on the 240,000 tickets sold by the VACC for this year’s MIMS, which proved more popular than the Victorian government-backed Australian Formula One GP at Albert Park.

 center imageFCAI chief executive, Andrew McKellar.

Motor show insiders have told GoAuto this week that the 2009 Sydney show had almost certainly been axed, but Mr McKellar refused to confirm or deny the information.

“I’m in fact not ruling it in or out – I’m not commenting on it at this point because we are working to get an outcome and once we’ve got that outcome that will determine a whole set of circumstances for next year,” he said.

“I believe the Melbourne organisers are committed and in that context we urge the industry to get behind that and support it. A decision on Sydney will be made shortly. An announcement will probably be made as soon as it can be.

“But for the moment we just have to press on with what we know and we know that they are committed to doing a show in Melbourne so we wish them very well and we believe that the best thing the industry can do is to get behind it and support it.” Mr McKellar said this week that some issues remained unresolved.

“We’ve made very good progress in the discussions that we’ve had, but no agreement has been reached. I’m hopeful that one will be, but precisely what the terms of that agreement are going to be and when it will be finalised, we just need to be cautious on that at this point in time.

“We’re continuing to work on the issues. There’s certainly some momentum there but I wouldn’t want to jump the gun in terms of characterising exactly what the outcome will be. Some of the details still need to be pinned down. Until we’ve got all of that resolved I think we’ve got to hold fire at this point.

“I think we all know we’ve got to get to a more sustainable solution. We’ve seen in recent days suggestions of what might be occurring in Brisbane and what might or might not be occurring in Adelaide, which highlights the fact that a lot of things are in a state of flux at the moment,” he said.

The 2009 Melbourne motor show in less than three months has the backing of most of Australia’s major vehicle brands, including Toyota, Holden/HSV, Ford/FPV, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Honda, Subaru, Volkswagen, Suzuki, Kia, BMW, Lexus, Peugeot, Renault, Skoda, Cadillac, Saab, Hummer, Lamborghini, Lotus and Isuzu.

However, confirmed Melbourne non-attendees are Ferrari, Maserati, Alfa Romeo, Citroen and Fiat – that is, every brand imported by Ateco Automotive, which says the decision was made on a case-by-case basis – as well as Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep, Jaguar and Land Rover, Volvo, Mini, Smart and Mercedes-Benz.

The latter will instead hold a multi-million-dollar customer event over five days at the Formula One grand prix on March 26-29, while Porsche told GoAuto this week that it had planned to be at MIMS but that imminent marketing budget cuts may prevent it from exhibiting Audi, Bentley and Hyundai remain undecided as they await the outcome of discussions between the FCAI and VACC.

As we reported last week, the retail-focused Brisbane International Motor Show (BIMS) has been cancelled for 2009 and will not be held again until February 2010, following the pull-out of key brands including Volkswagen and Toyota, whose HiLux has long been one of the most popular vehicles in Queensland, which is one of Australia’s largest markets.

This week the 2009 Adelaide motor show become the latest Australian automotive showcase to be cancelled, with organisers announcing late last week that the South Australian event would also be postponed until 2010.

“We regret having to make this decision as we had some new and very exciting attractions planned,” said executive director of the Automotive Exhibitors Association of South Australia, Ian Digby.

The Adelaide show was scheduled to run over April 1-5 and its cancellation has cast a cloud over the Perth motor show, which is traditionally held weeks later as a ‘piggyback’ event. Perth show organisers will decide in the coming days whether the event will go ahead.

Calls for a single annual international Australian motor show were first voiced by luxury brands including Mercedes-Benz, which led an exodus of the major prestige brands from this year’s AIMS in Sydney, including BMW, Audi and Porsche.

The Victorian government is believed to have offered financial incentives to the VACC if it secured an annual international motor show in Melbourne. The 2009 event will be the 75th annual running of the MIMS, which is regarded as the most cost-effective motor show for the majority of car companies.

Ironically, however, with the 2009 MIMS to be held just five months after the 2008 AIMS before the new alternating annual motor show arrangement begins, many automotive brands have told GoAuto they would have preferred Sydney was host next year’s event.

“I think if we had a choice of attending either motor show in 2009, most car companies would prefer Sydney,” said one industry insider, who asked not to be named.

“Given the current market slump, if they know what’s good for them they will have stopped ordering cars. Three months later, which happens to be around Melbourne motor show time, there will be no new models to sell – except a glut of 2008-plated car that will require heavy discounting to shift. Things might pick up by Sydney.” Holden spokesman Jonathan Rose said the presence of the majority of car brands was required to ensure an international-quality motor show.

“Holden bases its (motor show) plans on a five-show program, so there were no plans for us to withdraw from any motor show in Australia. We support whatever position is made to ensure a strong international show each year.

“If a number of manufacturers don’t it becomes difficult to sustain. The cancellation of the Brisbane and Adelaide shows, and the limited number of manufacturers at the Sydney show this year highlight such pressures,” he said.

Like Holden and Toyota, Ford said it was committed to major motor shows in the major capital cities. It was one of the few remaining volume brands committed to the 2009 BIMS when it was cancelled last week.

“I understand that there will not be a show in Sydney next year. We hadn’t pulled out of the 2008 Sydney show and had no intentions of pulling out of the 2009 show,” said spokeswoman Sinead McAlary.

“We have said that we wanted (motor shows around Australia) to be more efficient… and that there may be better ways of doing things. We prefer it to alternate … but we never put in threats (of pulling out of any shows).

“We were going to attend Sydney and Adelaide (in 2009) but they’ve been cancelled. When we heard that others pulled out of the Brisbane show we asked the organisers what they would do to make sure they market it properly … and that it works for everybody,” she said.

GM Premium Brands spokesperson Rebecca Clout said the 2009 MIMS would host the retail launch of its Cadillac marque following the postponement of the CTS sedan’s release in September and the Cadillac brand launch at October’s AIMS.

“Cadillac will have a big presence since it (the Melbourne show) falls nicely with the (launch) timing, but I can’t yet confirm Saab and Hummer (display details). Brisbane is an important show and we were looking at the options,” she said.

Speaking on behalf of Nissan Australia, Jeffrey Fisher said both the current Sydney and Melbourne dates would have to move for a single annual show to succeed.

“It is expensive (to do several shows in Australia every year), there is no question,” he said. “But as a volume manufacturer, we believe motor shows perform an important communications platform for customers and potential customers.

“I think if there is going to be an alternate show each year the timing must be suitable, because you can’t really have 18 months between a Melbourne show in late February one year and a Sydney show in October the next year.” Mr McKellar said both the FCAI and VACC hope to provide a greater level of certainty for vehicle brands looking to confirm their motor show and launch marketing budgets.

“I think we’re moving to make it clear what the sustainable model will be and I think people can be confident we’ll get an outcome that works to a more sustainable model,” he said.

“Until that is resolved I think people have got to make the best judgements that they can given what is publicly known at this point of time … which is that the Melbourne organisers are proceeding with their show.”

Read more:

Punters could seal fate of 2009 Sydney show

Sydney, Melbourne shows to alternate from 2009

Motor show showdown

Brisbane and Melbourne motor shows face off

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