By Alisdair Suttie 22 August 2012
Wednesday 22 August 2012. Fleet Voice Column.
Blame global warming, blame increased niche marketing from car companies. Hell, blame whatever takes your fancy, but the reality is the motor show season no longer runs from the traditional Paris/Frankfurt alternating twins through the biannual Tokyo gadget-fest and then Detroit’s tub-thumper to the genteel round-off of Geneva.
Now, we have Los Angeles and New York, Beijing and the Goodwood Festival of Speed all vying for space on the show calendar. It’s all very welcome, but it leaves me wondering how and why car companies choose certain events for their major launches.
Naturally, if you’re a French car company exec, Paris is the only place you want to be seen launching a new car. So it will be for Renault when it unveils the next Clio in September in the French capital. It’s only right and proper, mais non?
Yet, where the patriotism of Bentley, even if it’s owned by the Germans? It has talked up its Mulsanne Convertible Concept for a while now, even claiming it will be the world’s most elegant convertible. Having seen the Mulsanne saloon’s visage up close in the metal, Bentley must be sculpting something quite different to justify this tag, but that’s beside the point.
The point is why Bentley is not unveiling this car in the UK instead of at the Pebble Beach Concours in California, USA? Granted, most of the Mulsanne drop-top’s sales will be in the USA, but surely the appeal to our American cousins is in the car’s British-ness. They have plenty of home-grown convertibles to choose from and lots of other luxury brands offer roofless models to let in the sun and envious looks.
McLaren is another British company guilty of deserting the shores of Blighty in favour of Pebble Beach’s pristine golf lawns. The McLaren MP4-12C Spider is being launched over there as we speak and not even at a glitzy unique event, but at an auction.
Again, McLaren is no doubt playing to the gallery of potential buyers of this car, most of whom will enjoy driving the Spider at slow speeds around the sun-kissed states of the US. Yet, when the car is so British in its approach, why not take the chance to underscore this?
Chasing the sun
We’re coming off the bounce of the Olympics being such a huge British success, yet our car companies seem determined to scarper abroad to lift the lid on their new models. It’s very disappointing and also denotes why the UK no longer has a motor show of its own, though there are also some very strong reasons for this aside from car makers’ marketing men deciding a foreign jaunt in the summer would be a good idea.
Those reasons for previous British motor shows flopping include dire venue at the NEC in Birmingham and Excel in London, which couldn’t be more soulless if Beelzebub himself was charging the entry fee.
Then there’s the almost wilful resistance of some attendees to put on a good display or be in the least bit proud of their UK associations. Yes, the likes of Morgan and Caterham fly the flag all around the globe and did so with verve at British motor shows of old, but it wasn’t enough to stem the ebbing tide.
Lord March has come closest with his Moving Motor Show (MMS), which has been a great success in recent years. However, there are size restrictions at Goodwood that limit the number of people who can attend.
Given the success of the Goodwood MMS formula, why not apply it on a grander scale for an international motor show with a difference? Where the other established international motor shows that Britain resolutely fails to compete with at present are great at static displays, why not make a UK show all action?
We have the facilities in place at Silverstone. There’s great access by road and public transport, it has vast amounts of space for parking and display areas, a handily convenient test track for trying out cars and putting on an entertainment show, and its facilities are second to none for catering and dealing with large numbers of people.
Just think what it would be like to turn up to a motor show and be able to take the car of your dreams or more down-to-earth real next purchase for a drive? That in itself would be worth the admission fee. Add in plenty of space to walk about and fresh air instead of the crammed, stuffy halls of the NEC and it’s already a much more appealing prospect.
Throw in the chance to make this type of motorshow a much more appealing family day out and you can spend as much time taking in the cars as you like while the family enjoy themselves too.
Give the British public this type of event, something to be proud of, and car companies will naturally follow and want to show off their new models and concepts there.
It’s crazy but it might just work
This is a simple format and one that has been proven to work by the Goodwood MMS. All we need to do is scale it up, make sure all of the car companies come along and maybe have a wee word with the weather to make sure the sun shines.
Who knows, maybe we could hold this new motor show in July when we’re more likely to see the sun and the kids are off school so parents might see it as a good way of entertaining their offspring. It’s a crazy plan, but it could just work.
Where British motorshows of the past have lacked the glamour of their European counterparts or the exoticism of further flung shows, a new type of motorshow in the UK could put Britain back on the show circuit map and compete with the existing events and new shows on the block.
Sure, this would be unashamed flag waving for GB Plc, but as we’ve seen with the Olympics, it can have a hugely positive and lasting effect. So, come on British car makers, stop flouncing overseas to launch your cars and get behind a British motorshow. We deserve it.
Citroen has just marked the 45th anniversary of its quirky Mehari fun car with a bespoke display at its chic design centre in the middle of Paris. While the Mehari may be more beach dunes than Champs-Elysées, it points up…
If you ever need an example of how far the car and automotive technology has come in a single generation, just reach for the gear lever in your car. A mere 25 years ago, you would most likely have the choice of five gears…
There are a great many considerations to take into account when looking at your next company car. Some are purely financial and others will be environmental, either because of monetary reasons or because of your conscience.…
Hot hatches have been through a few ups and downs in the time the class has properly existed. From must-have 1980s accessory to untouchable, uninsurable liability in the early 1990s, the sector has been on the rise again…
The sound of silence is something usually reserved for the luxury end of the car market, but sat here in a Vauxhall Zafira Tourer there is an eerie lack of audio interruption. Before you think we need the tender care of…