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Sydney show to be world-class, despite brand exodus

Main event: The new Toyota Corolla will be one of the Sydney motor show headliners in October, though at least 22 brands will be missing from the show.

At least 22 brands not coming, but 2012 AIMS to host global and key regional debuts

General News logo21 Aug 2012

THE 2012 Australian International Motor Show (AIMS) from October 18 will host at least one world premiere and multiple regional debuts, despite almost half the brands on sale in this market being unrepresented at the event.

Organisers have to contend with the fact that at least 22 brands – including crowd-pulling names such as Ferrari, Maserati, Audi, BMW, Renault and Volvo – have decided to focus their marketing spend elsewhere, citing reasons such as the cost of hosting a stand and the timing of new product releases.

Fiat Chrysler Group will not attend, eliminating the Chrysler (and its new 300), Jeep, Dodge, Fiat and Alfa Romeo brands, while Ateco Automotive – which is responsible for Ferrari and Maserati through its European Automotive Imports arm – will also not be displaying its Chery, Great Wall, Lotus and Citroen brands.

Also missing from the show will be premium brands Bentley, Mini, Rolls-Royce, McLaren and Tesla Motors, as well as Indian-owned Mahindra and Korean brand SsangYong.

However, the Sydney event will host a number of new model reveals, including Toyota’s new-generation Corolla that finally appeared this week in Japan ahead of show debuts in Paris on September 27 and the Harbour City three weeks later.

AIMS director Russ Tyrie told GoAuto this week there would be at least one world debut at the show.

This raises the prospect of Ford Australia’s highly anticipated Ranger-based SUV getting a premiere at its native show, which would follow the precedent of the company staging the world debut for the T6 Ranger ute on which it is based at the last Sydney show in 2010.

Despite this prospect, Ford is expected to markedly downsize its presence at this year’s show, with the Blue Oval and its FPV sporting arm set to occupy just 484 square metres of space inside the Darling Harbour complex – about one-third the size of Toyota and Holden – though it will have a significant outdoor presence.

 center imageFrom top: AIMS director Russ Tyrie Chrysler 300 Audi A6 BMW 3 Series.

As GoAuto reported earlier this month, Hyundai Australia is planning to wow show-goers with a range of locally developed SR-badged concept versions of existing models, pointing to a series of warmed-up production cars such as the i30.

Mr Tyrie told GoAuto that floor space for the show was fully booked, that no discounts or extra space had been offered to participating manufacturers, and that the event would not be devalued by the absence of so many key brands.

“We don’t believe so,” he said. “We would always like the industry to be as well represented as we can, but I think the full list of unveilings and reveals that are going to appear at the show certainly give lie to the thought that the industry participating is not committed to the show.

“We would certainly like to have other brands that have chosen not to attend, and it would be great if they were able to attend next year’s show in Melbourne.” Mr Tyrie said organisers “wouldn’t be running it” if they were not confident of holding a successful show and that he believed there was “every possibility” of this year’s show attracting more than the 139,000 visitors that attended the previous Sydney show in 2010.

However, the organisers will have their work cut out to match the 193,755 visitors that attended last year’s AIMS, held in Melbourne.

This year’s Sydney show is the last to be staged at Darling Harbour until 2018, with the event moving west to Homebush in 2014 and 2016 as the New South Wales government rebuilds the Darling Harbour precinct.

Confirmed for this year’s show are 24 brands, including Toyota, Holden/HSV, Mazda, Hyundai, Ford/FPV, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Honda, Subaru, Kia, Volkswagen, Skoda, Mercedes-Benz, Suzuki, Peugeot, Porsche, Lexus, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lamborghini, Isuzu and Proton, plus newly launched brands Infiniti and Opel.

The unexpected absence of Audi comes despite the German car-maker's participation in a multi-brand boycott of the 2008 event on the grounds of cost, which resulted in the Sydney show being cancelled in 2009 and the establishment of alternating shows between Sydney and Melbourne from 2010.

Audi Australia corporate communications executive Shaun Cleary told GoAuto the company had decided to focus on other marketing initiatives such as its promotion of theatre companies, art galleries and film festivals in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

“We’ve made a lot of investment into our sponsorship strategy for a start, and we feel that these investments are more critical to what we want to achieve in 2012,” he said.

“The decision to not go to Sydney this year isn’t a reflection of a general strategy not to attend motor shows, but we just felt it’s the right decision for 2012.” Mr Cleary said the fact the Melbourne show is held in July and the Sydney show in October compounded the difficulties, pointing to other alternating global shows like Frankfurt/Paris, which occupy roughly the same dates on the calendar in their respective years.

BMW Australia head of corporate communications Piers Scott said the company had originally intended to have a presence at the Sydney show, but opted to place more emphasis on existing marketing campaigns with a “more national focus”.

Mr Scott said AIMS did not have an Australia-wide impact “in terms of immediate sales”.

“Withdrawal from participation is extremely reluctant, but the marketing spend has gone into activities that reach audiences across the entire country more broadly,” he said.

BMW’s decision to skip Sydney goes a step beyond its minimalist presence in Melbourne last year, where it displayed only the i8 plug-in sportscar concept.

Mr Scott said it was BMW’s intention to return to AIMS next year.

Fiat Chrysler Group Australia director of corporate affairs Lenore Fletcher – whose brief includes the Jeep, Dodge and Alfa brands – said the company would instead focus on existing marketing campaigns, adding that it was “very early days” into the agreement to centralise Australian distribution of all the Group’s products.

Chrysler officially took over as distributor of Fiat and Alfa Romeo in May.

Renault Australia marketing director Chris Bayman also said his company would focus its marketing budget on alternate campaigns.

“In any year, we need to make decisions and prioritise our budget to drive our dual objectives: grow our brand and drive volume,” said Mr Bayman.

“The path that we are on is proving quite successful and it is not possible to divert significant funds into a motor show at this time.” Volvo Car Australia public affairs manager Oliver Peagam said the timing of the show simply did not suit its global launch schedule, with first examples of its anticipated new V40 hatch not due to hit our shores until the first quarter of 2013.

“We have quite a lot of activities going on (globally) in the latter half of this year and the early part of next year, so the timings were complicated for us, so we took a decision to not attend this year’s show,” he said.

“This decision doesn’t bode for our strategy with future shows and I suspect we’ll be back with a vengeance at future Australian shows.” On the motor show’s future relocation to Homebush, Mr Tyrie said the reaction so far had been positive and he was confident the move would have no negative impact on attendance.

GoAuto understands this is not a view shared by all car representatives, with one senior car company source telling us that the shift away from an inner-CBD location posed substantial problems for 2014 and 2016.

“The Darling Harbour show survives because the five weekdays fill with people, since offices are so close,” said our source. “On weekdays, people won’t go out to Homebush.” The source said events like AIMS – where even a small-scale stand can cost a company $500,000 – do not represent the same marketing opportunity they once did, with modern technology making it cheaper and easier to promote product and gather leads.

“Motor shows were originally for collecting prospects to sell them cars,” he said.

“Thanks to the electronic revolution, we have much more cost-effective ways of collecting prospects and potential customers.

“At the end of the day, our number-one job here is to sell a car that’s why we exist. Therefore, everything we do has to be judged by two basic criteria: Will it sell a car, and is it the most simple and cost-effective way to do it? “Motor shows have a number of significant drawbacks, and it’s not just costs. It’s also a severe drain on resources.

“The marketing and PR people become focused on one event for the better part of a month, designing, building, bump-in, knock-down, the whole thing. Then we are reliant on salespeople to man the stands, so we drain the dealers.

“Imagine the number of track days or events we could do for the same money, and show attention to people who have also shown an interest and willingness to purchase a product.”

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