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Melbourne show looks to the future

Crowd count: Melbourne motor show crowds were down 30 per cent on recent years.

Crowds down 30 per cent in tough times, but motor show plans for future expansion

11 Mar 2009

By IAN PORTER in MELBOURNE

MELBOURNE International Motor Show attendance was down about 30 per cent this year, but organisers are looking forward to a brighter future in an expanded exhibition centre with a proposed annexe adding 60 per cent more floor space.

Motor show director Russ Tyrie said the economic conditions and the weather in Melbourne had been factors in limiting the attendance to 160,000 over the 11 days of the show, which will be the last in the southern capital for two years under the new annual show-sharing agreement with Sydney.

“The police advisory alert of a windstorm on the Tuesday did not help,” he said.

“The alert said 'if you are in Melbourne get out, and if you were planning to come to Melbourne, don’t'.

“It’s hard to know what effect that had, but we do know it was not a normal Tuesday night for us.” He believes the financial problems now gripping Australia and the world played a large part in the lower attendance.

“In any other year we would have been disappointed with a crowd of 160,000,” he said.

“But considering the impact of the global economic slowdown, and with households watching every cent, achieving this number of visitors is encouraging for an industry feeling the pinch.”

 center imageHe dismissed a suggestion that the decision by a number of companies – including Mercedes-Benz – to stay away had been a significant factor in the lower crowd numbers.

Exotic brands absent from the show included Ferrari, Aston Martin, Rolls-Royce, Maserati and other brands such as Volvo, Fiat and Alfa Romeo.

“The brands that were there represented 94.9 per cent of all vehicles sold in Australia last year,” Mr Tyrie said.

“To say there were 19 brands not there is certainly stretching it when two or three of those brands haven’t sold a car for a couple of years,” he added.

Mr Tyrie said he was keen to see the annexe – next to the exhibition centre where the motor show is staged – get the green light from the state government.

“The (Victorian) premier (John Brumby) gave a reasonable indication that they are looking very seriously at an extension, which has been mooted for a couple of years,” Mr Tyrie said.

“We would very much like to see that come on stream as an additional opportunity for the show. That would give us another 18,000 square metres.

“There have always been some aspects to the show which we would have liked to expand, but because of the finite nature of the space we have got we have never been able to contemplate that.” An extra 18,000 square metres would increase the available floor area of the show by 60 per cent to 48,000 square metres – 78 per cent bigger than its rival in Sydney’s Darling Harbour.

“I would like to expand the floor area of the show. There are all sorts of things we could do,” he said, without being specific.

The extra space would make it much easier to cater to the space requirements of the various exhibitors.

“We did 30 versions of the floor plan this year trying to fit everything in. It was a bit like a Rubik’s cube.” Mr Tyrie said he did not believe that passenger cars would fill the extra space, and he ruled out making the annexe a motorcycle show or a truck show.

“It’s not necessarily our intention we’d be looking to do that,” he said.

The 2009 Melbourne International Motor Show was the last event to bear that name, as the next show to be staged in Melbourne will be the 2011 Australian International Motor Show.

The show will alternate annually between Melbourne and Sydney under an agreement struck between the Melbourne show promoter, the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce, and the promoter of the Sydney motor show, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries.

“It’s sad to see the end of the Melbourne motor show, but we are excited about then future,” said VACC executive director David Purchase.

“The partnership with FCAI is an opportunity for the motor show to develop and grow.

“It has the backing of the manufacturers and will provide better participation from overseas, more new releases, show specials and concept cars when it returns.”

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