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Exclusive: MotorWorld faces manufacturer rejection

Onward and upward: Despite signing up very few car-makers for MotorWorld Sydney, but event managing director Kris Willand said he was “happy” with the support the festival had received so far.

Car manufacturers decline invites to reborn rolling motor show event

30 Aug 2016

MOTORWORLD Sydney organisers have faced widespread rejection from car manufacturers less than three months before the interactive motoring festival is scheduled to open on December 1 at Sydney Motorsport Park.

At a launch event in February, organisers Definitive Events announced that MotorWorld Sydney hoped to attract 25 car brands to the reborn motor show, but only Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), Tesla and Volvo have since signed up to each pay the $30,000-to-$50,000 entry fee.

Representatives from other major manufacturers have confirmed to GoAuto they will not participate in the event, with Audi, BMW, Citroen, Ford, Holden, Hyundai, Kia, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, Peugeot, Renault and Subaru among the brands declining an invite.

Toyota is continuing to assess opportunities at the festival, Volkswagen says it has not been approached by event organisers, and Honda – the first manufacturer to have previously pledged support for the event – has backed away from being involved.

Late last year Honda Australia director Stephen Collins confirmed the brand had signed up to be part of MotorWorld, noting that “how we are going to use it and what we will have there is still being decided” – but holding out hope the NSX supercar would appear.

Now, however, Honda Australia group public relations manager Neil McDonald has confirmed the company has backed away from involvement.

“Honda Australia is not participating at the event,” he told GoAuto.

“Originally we had said there was ‘a chance’ of the NSX appearing but unfortunately the only NSX we have in the country is committed to other events.”

Earlier this year MotorWorld Sydney managing director Kris Willand told GoAuto: “Twenty-five brands is clearly the target for us.”

Asked at the time whether he was confident that enough brands would come on board, he replied: “I’m very sure, obviously, as I’m putting my reputation and money on the line here.”

Mr Willand also hoped that MotorWorld Sydney could learn from the mistakes of the failed Australian Motoring Festival held at the Melbourne Showgrounds in early 2015, which suffered from low attendance and scant brand support, and he believed manufacturers would be attracted by lower entry fees to the festival.

“We’ve brought it down to a package which is very manageable,” he said. “A typical car company will have about 10 to 15 cars in action (and) they’ll have other experiences such as a Mercedes-Benz drive academy.”

However, Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific public relations, product and corporate communications senior manager David McCarthy confirmed: “We’re not attending and that is not to indicate opposition or support.”

BMW Group Australia corporate communications general manager Lenore Fletcher cited tight competition for marketing budgets and the brand’s own drive experience racetrack days as reasons for its lack of commitment to the festival.

“It is not to say it’s not a fantastic vehicle for creating consumer experiences or awareness of a brand, but it’s just such a competitive environment,” Ms Fletcher said.

Kia Motors Australia media and corporate communications general manager Kevin Hepworth explained that “it (MotorWorld) didn’t fit with our business structure at the moment” while Hyundai Motor Co Australia public relations general manager Bill Thomas also said the brand “currently has no plans to take part in this event” for similar reasons.

“We will have to investigate the costs involved and the potential return on investment (but) I am not aware of any conversations taking place at this point and it doesn't fit in with the sponsorships and events we have planned for the rest of the year,” Mr Thomas added.

Concerns were raised over the location of the event in Sydney’s western suburbs, with a lack of public transport availability cited, and a lack of confidence from more than one official over a customer ‘mega test’ idea that would allow those attending to drive and ‘assess’ rival cars in an unknown environment.

However, despite the widespread rejection from other manufacturers, Jaguar Land Rover Australia brand experience general manager Mark Eedle said the car-maker would provide show-goers with demonstrations of its cars dubbed ‘the art of performance’.

“We see MotorWorld as a great opportunity for us to showcase Jaguar and Land Rover experiences to a broader audience,” he said.

“We are taking our ‘art of performance’ tour to MotorWorld … a program we’ve been running around the country that gives prospects an experience of the brands.

“We’ll be inviting some of our own guests to come along … but obviously we will also have the opportunity to provide experiences to the broader audience at MotorWorld.”

Mr Willand also continued to appear positive about the success of the event.

“I am very happy with the support we are receiving from major car brands in pulling this new event together,” he told GoAuto last week in a statement.

“We are aiming to have 150 cars in action from up to 40 different brands (and) while we are not quite there yet, the most exciting brands are bringing a level of car-based entertainment to the event never before seen in Australia.

“It is never easy to get a new event concept off the ground, but I am confident in saying that we now have all the pieces in place to deliver a truly unique automotive festival.”

In lieu of official manufacturer participation, MotorWorld Sydney said in a statement that Ferrari and Porsche models will be on display from Sydney-based dealership Classic Throttle Shop, while the Chevrolet Corvette and Ford F150 will be there from Shogun Conversions.

As previously reported, MotorWorld Sydney has unspecified financial support from the state government’s Destination NSW tourism body. The three-day festival is still planned to open on December 1 at Sydney Motorsport Park, 40km west of the CBD, with ticket prices yet to be announced.

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