DO WE NEED A MOTOR SHOW?

Motor Shows are wonderful events for anyone who loves cars. Manufacturers use them to unveil and hype up concept cars, important new production models and innovations, and the public flocks to see these wonders of technology and horsepower.

Yet it has been almost a decade since the Australian International Motor Show was last held, prompting us to wonder: do we need to revive the event?

The Melbourne International Motor Show was the longest running Auto Show in Australia, held from 1925 through to 2009, when it merged with the Sydney show (originally titled Sydney Motor Show but from 2004 called the Australian International Motor Show [AIMS]). The joint venture between the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), and the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce (VACC) retained the AIMS name and planned to alternate between Melbourne and Sydney biennially, commencing with Sydney in 2010.

It was short-lived though, with the Australian International Motor Show (AIMS) Joint Venture announcing on 25 March 2013 that the Australian International Motor Show scheduled for Melbourne in June of that year, would not proceed. In a statement released on 25 February 2014, VACC and FCAI announced the dissolution of the Australian International Motor Show joint venture.

So, it’s nine years since we last had a Motor Show. With so much change happening in terms of the shift to electric vehicles (and further down the track, autonomous vehicles), connectivity, mobility sharing and the like, couldn’t we do with a Motor Show to drive some hype and get the public excited about automotive possibilities and coming realities?

The five most prestigious Auto Shows, sometimes called the ‘Big Five’, are generally considered to be those held in Frankfurt, Geneva, Detroit, Paris and Tokyo. They are spectacular events, attracting crowds in their tens of thousands, with participation from all the major manufacturers as well as boutique geniuses, showcasing the cutting edge of automotive technology.

Naturally, like everything else, COVID-19 put a halt to such events in 2020, and given their great expense, some are wondering if they will all return in the same format even after the world has escaped the grip of the pandemic.

Motor Shows have traditionally served as an important means of connecting with the public, but they are very expensive.

When last year’s Geneva Show was cancelled just a few days before it was to stage its media preview, many wondered how the OEMs would react. With more than 50 reveals scheduled for the Swiss event, the automakers instead had to unveil their cars mainly via webcasts.

Manufacturers targeted journalists to ‘attend’ their unveilings from the comfort of their home or office. There was no other choice, of course, but who’s to say this won’t become the way of the future? With improvements in internet and streaming speeds, the idea of a ‘virtual’ showcase for a vehicle is not as ludicrous as it would have been considered even a handful of years ago. Virtual and augmented reality headsets will become more prevalent, and further enhance the experience. You won’t ‘be there’, but you’ll feel almost as if you were.

Manufacturers could see better value in redirecting the very large budgets required for physical Shows into other areas. The ability to use the internet to stage a product introduction anywhere, any time, to as exclusive or as large an audience as desired, has changed the paradigm.

And yet, there is as yet no substitute for a real, physical, live, in-person experience. And as we emerge from our COVID-cocoons, there is an argument to be made that people will crave these physical, tangible experiences they once took for granted. Maybe not enough to justify an annual Show – maybe we need to think about a biennial Show. Maybe it’s just not feasible at all. But let’s have the conversation.

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