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First Australian Motoring Festival takes off

Show-off: The Australian Motoring Festival has a test track, allowing attendees to test drive a range of models from Volvo and Mercedes-Benz

After a four-year hiatus, Melbourne takes a gamble on new format motor show


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27 Mar 2015

THE inaugural Australian Motoring Festival (AMF) has kicked off in Melbourne, offering attendees a more interactive experience than traditional motor shows of the past, but just six automotive brands have signed on in its first year.

The first 'motor show' in Melbourne since 2011, AMF will differentiate itself by targeting not only new car buyers, but car enthusiasts and families by offering unique driving experiences, test drives, a vintage car display and live entertainment.

Although manufacturers in attendance are limited to Toyota, Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, Isuzu Ute and local all-terrain vehicle-maker Tomcar, only Mercedes and Volvo are offering test drives of a handful of models.

Event director Kylie Wood said customer feedback has already been strong, despite the involvement of only a handful of marques, highlighting the festival's hands-on approach as a unique treatment of the traditional motor show formula.

“The outdoor and interactive nature of the festival, going from static displays, means there is something for everyone to be able to try,” she said.

“There's a lot more of an interactive nature and people can actually sit in a car and get that experience.”

Discussing public attendance numbers – which dipped as low as 135,000 during the Australian International Motor Show (AIMS) in Sydney in 2012 – Ms Wood was optimistic about how AMF would fare.

“Pre-sale is always a good sign of how the event will turn out, certainly with weather and announcer events, people will do walk-ins and that's the opportunity we have across the four days,” she said.

“Fifty thousand is what we have been promoting, that's where we're tracking and certainly with our marketing and media campaign, that's what we're aiming for.”

Ferrari, one of the first brands to sign on for AMF, has its own dedicated hall with cars on display including the F12berlinetta, California T, 458 Speciale and flagship $3 million LaFerrari, as well as classics such as the F40, F50 and 288 GTO.

Speaking with GoAuto, Ferrari Australasia president and CEO Herbert Appleroth said AMF is different enough to survive and is a great way to engage with the brand's fans.

“I think motor shows have moved on, and the Australian Motoring Festival has created something unique,” he said.

“When AMF came to us, we looked at it very, very carefully and it's not just something we want to be part of, but the ability for us to communicate in our own way, in our own pavilion, the Ferrari message, the Ferrari dream.

“For us, our brand is not just about putting new cars on display, it is about selling a brand message.”

Toyota, another early adopter of AMF, has a large outdoor display including 2014's best-selling car, the Corolla, Australia's highest-selling light-commercial vehicle, the HiLux, and the 86 rear-drive coupe.

Toyota Australia regional marketing manager Jeremy Watson said AMF offers a different approach to engaging with customers and expects public reception to be positive.

“We were pretty keen to show off some of our models and put ourselves in a position where people can feel comfortable and have a look at them without necessarily going to a dealership,” he said.

“It's the first motor show-type event we've had in a long time, I think the people of Melbourne are eager to have something.”

Mercedes-Benz is showcasing its safety technologies in a unique and controlled driving experience, as well as letting the public get up and close with its upcoming $300,000 AMG GT S sports coupe for the first time.

Volvo, a late registration to AMF, is also taking the opportunity to promote its brand, allowing attendees to test drive some models on a closed-track environment.

Volvo regional business manager Stuart Mitchell said AMF represents a unique way for customers to “experience our products” and gives “great exposure” to the Swedish marque.

Isuzu Ute has a unique Iron Summit experience to showcase its hill-climbing credentials, alongside its D-Max ute and MU-X SUV.

Tomcar is letting people put its ATVs through its paces on a custom-built off-road track which CEO David Brim believes will be a unique experience for the public and said he supports what AMF is trying to accomplish.

“For us, it's just to show support and be part of the community,” he said.

“We're really proud of what the VACC are doing and when we spoke to them early on, we really wanted to be part of it.

“We give as much information as we can, we're a very transparent company, people are really liking it.”

Ms Wood confirmed to GoAuto that organisers approached all manufacturers across Australia, but added that the reason some car-makers chose not to be involved came down to “timing”.

However, she was optimistic about the future of the new format, hinting at the potential to expand the show interstate, while confirming the show will return in some capacity down the track.

“There is definitely room to grow next year or the year after,” she said.

“Once people actually see the festival, have that understanding of changing from a motor show to an interactive event, more people will come on-board.”

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