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Motoring festival might spread interstate

On test: Melbourne Showgrounds will be the test ground for the Australian Motoring Festival, combining new cars and motorcycles with classic cars and entertainment.

If successful, a one-off Victorian motoring festival could trigger another in Sydney

25 Jun 2014

THE Victorian organisers of next year’s Australian Motoring Festival in Melbourne have not ruled out expanding the event interstate.

Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce (VACC) executive director David Purchase said today that his organisation was focussed on making the inaugural four-day festival in March a success with the aim of making it an annual event at the Melbourne Showgrounds.

“Will this go interstate? I think that is too early to say,” he said. “We just want to run this one in Victoria, make it a success and look at what happens thereafter.” Asked if his organisation might consider a venue such as Sydney’s Homebush Showgrounds for another festival, Mr Purchase conceded: “Well, we might. That decision clearly hasn’t been made. At the moment we are just focussed on making sure this is a success.”

The Australian Motoring Festival effectively replaces the Australian International Motor Show which the VACC organised in league with the umbrella body for the Canberra-based Australian motor industry, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), with shows alternating annually between Melbourne and Sydney.

The two organisations dissolved their joint venture when they cancelled the 2013 motor show after a number of key car companies pulled out in the wake of the global financial crisis.

Mr Purchase said the split was amicable, with the FCAI happy to let the VACC take the reins in planning for a new-look event with more interactivity and entertainment and less cost for exhibitors than the traditional exhibition hall static shows dating back 90 years.

He said the FCAI had bigger issues on its plate at the time, including the collapse of the Australian car manufacturing industry.

“They said ‘why don’t we terminate the JV (joint venture) and you guys, who have years of experience doing these shows, go and do what you want to do’,” he said “So, there was no argument about it. It was by mutual agreement.”

The VACC then enlisted to the help of Victoria’s biggest consumer motoring organisation, the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria (RACV), and tested the waters with a group of motor company marketing executives about coming up with a new concept for the show.

Mr Purchase said that car companies wanted lower costs, more interactivity such as test drives, a shorter show duration and greater promotion.

He said everyone agreed that the traditional model of the motor show was dead, and a new concept had to be developed.

The motoring festival will not only involve new cars in both static displays and test drive arenas – including an off-road test track – but also motorcycles, classic cars and aftermarket accessories and equipment.

It will be combined with an industry conference, Australia’s Best Car awards and the VACC Automotive Design Awards, as well as entertainment such as parades, music and children’s activities.

Several classic car clubs will also being involved in displays, while the traditional Shannons classic car auction will be transferred to the festival.

Unlike motoring events such as Top Gear Live in which cars were crashed and bashed, the festival will eschew speed and danger, with a fixed top speed of 80km/h in test drives.

The RACV, which has 2.1 million members, is believed to have folded its participation in a couple of other major motoring events in Victoria to concentrate on the festival.

For some years, the Melbourne motor show was held around the time of the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne in March, to the benefit of both in attracting interstate and overseas visitors.

In 2015, the new-look festival will be held two weeks after the AGP, a timing which Mr Purchase said was forced on the organisers by venue availability.

He described the period as “mad March”, with a plethora of competing events in Melbourne.

Mr Purchase said the Melbourne Showgrounds, in the city’s inner west next to Flemington Racecourse, was the only suitable venue for the festival in Victoria, and it was only available on March 26-29.

While the VACC and RACV are both Victorian-focussed organisations, both have business operations that spread outside the state’s boarder, with VACC operating a national ticketing company for events and the RACV owning a number of resorts, including Queensland’s Royal Pines.

The VACC has contracted motoring events company Motokinetic to plan and build the test tracks at the Melbourne festival, at the cost of about $500,000.

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