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Punters could seal fate of 2009 Sydney show

Go-slow: Show-goers at the Darling Harbour Exhibition Centre.

Fewer 2008 visitors almost certainly guarantee there will be no 2009 Sydney show

20 Oct 2008

By JAMES STANFORD in SYDNEY

POOR attendance figures for this year’s Australian International Motor Show in Sydney have all but guaranteed that a single national show alternating between Sydney and Melbourne will be introduced next year.

The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), which organises the Sydney show, told GoAuto this week that it wants to see an alternating single show introduced “as soon as possible” and has “no appetite” for continuing with the current regime of two shows that receive fractured support from car-makers.

As GoAuto reported last week, the FCAI is deep in talks with the organiser of the Melbourne International Motor Show, the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce (VACC), and is close to concluding a deal.

While the FCAI refused to provide attendance figures for the Sydney show which finished on Sunday night, it made it clear they were well down on previous years.

“There is no doubt that this year’s show was put together in extra-challenging circumstances which have impacted attendances,” said FCAI chief executive Andrew McKellar.

When asked if a single show deal had to be worked out soon, Mr McKellar told GoAuto: “There is no question that we could drag this situation on for the next few years, but I have little appetite for going through the same challenges year on year.

“I would be very keen to resolve something in the near term.”

 center imageLeft: Ferrari California, the 10th annual Shannons auction at Darling Harbour and FCAI chief executive Andrew McKellar.

Mr McKellar made it clear that the FCAI and VACC must move quickly to finalise a deal for the single national show that it has been discussing for several months.

“It has got to be done in the very near future,” he said.

Mr McKellar said there were three basic reasons that fewer people came to see this year’s show at Sydney’s Darling Harbour Exhibition Centre: the global financial market meltdown, the fact that the Bathurst 1000 endurance race clashed with the opening weekend and the absence of many prestige car-makers.

He said the current tough economic conditions clearly meant many visitors saved their money, but Mr McKellar said this may also indicate that they will also delay purchasing a new car in light of the current financial troubles.

“One of the motivating factors for visitors is that they have an interest of buying or perhaps will be in the market for a new car in the next 12 months,” he said. “If people pull back on their plans (to buy a car), then that will have an impact.”

Another factor that helped the Sydney show to have a slow start was the fact that the opening weekend of this year’s event had to compete with the Bathurst 1000.

In previous years, the V8 Supercar showcase race has been run during the second weekend of the show, limiting the impact.

“Bathurst was also an issue,” Mr McKellar conceded. “Usually the first weekend is the strongest weekend.”

While these two factors played a role, the FCAI is also aware that the absence of high-profile prestige brands including Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi, all of which have called for one national show a year, as well as Porsche, Mini, Alfa Romeo, Citroen, Jaguar, Land Rover, Saab and Hummer, would have caused many people to steer clear.

“A number of key brands have chosen not to take part which has influenced media reporting (and) there has also been a response from the public which is shown by the attendances,” said Mr McKellar. “It sends a clear message to us and all in the industry.”

He said the FCAI was committed to working out a solution that would be supported by car-makers and the public.

“Future success is tied up in securing a model that has support of a large majority of all the brands. We can’t have a situation going forward based on an unsustainable and high-cost model of multiple events that don’t have the support of all the (major) brands,” he said.

“If you go in divided it sends a mixed message to the public.”

Mr McKellar said he would not comment on the details of the current negotiations between the FCAI and VACC regarding the motor show proposal.

He said the boards of both groups would make the final decision as well as when such a proposal may be kick-started.

GoAuto understands the Melbourne International Motor Show, which starts on February 27 next year, is safe.

If the single motor show model is introduced next year, the 2009 Australian International Motor Show in Sydney could be axed or downgraded to a regional show. Unless an agreement is reached soon, the single show model may not be introduced until 2010.

As reported by GoAuto last week, the push for a single show was given a boost with the local manufacturers conditionally supporting the move.

Ford, Holden and Toyota had previously been against such an initiative, although belt-tightening as well as concerns regarding the strength of the remaining shows saw the car-makers change their positions.

As with many other brands, the locals want to see the fine print of any deal before throwing their full weight behind the deal.

Mr McKellar said the brands that did attend this year’s Sydney show were happy with the interest shown on their stands, despite the lower attendances.

“The feedback I have had from the range of brands in terms of actual sales generated and good quality leads from the show is very positive,” he said.

Mr McKellar praised the brands that did attend this year’s show for bringing high-profile concept cars and production models, but conceded it would have been better with more brands present.

“Given the challenges, it was a show of excellent quality, but we owe it to the public that we have the greatest cross section of the automotive industry so that we can maintain the public’s interest,” he said.

While there were less people walking through the doors at the motor show, there were still enough wealthy customers to give Ferrari and its local importer Ateco plenty to smile about.

Going into the event, Ferrari held 150 orders for its stunning California convertible, which took pride of place on its stand in Sydney. By the time the doors closed on Sunday night, it held around 50 additional orders for the car that will start to arrive in Australia mid next year.

Shannons also said its motor show auction was successful, with higher-than-expected prices paid for its vehicles and number plates.

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