Roddy Graham's Blog: 13 August 2008 - Motor show madness
13 August 2008
Highlight of my visit to the 2008 British International Motor Show was a sushi for lunch.
The whole experience was dire. For those not living to the east of London, the Excel exhibition halls are a nightmare to reach. However, I'm not about to go on about the hours it took to get there, it was the time spent there when I arrived which was worse.
I have heard that the future of the event is in question and it didn't take more than a few minutes to see why. The visit to the one main hall was swiftly followed by one to the other opposite, and that was it as far as internal exhibits were concerned.
A quick glance down the list of exhibitors revealed a lack of full manufacturer presence. No BMW, no Mitsubishi, no Porsche to name just a few. The heritage enclosure was the nearest followers of the Stuttgart marque could get to see one of their beloved models, in this case a yellow Carrera GT.
Events outside the halls abounded if you were so inclined to wait around for an 'event' to take place. However, by the time I had overcome the disappointment of what turned out to be a flying visit, a quick escape was the only thing on my mind.
Gone are the glory days of the grand shows at Earl's Court. Many bemoaned the move to the NEC but our National Exhibition Centre was central, at the heart of the British automotive industry and proved a much better venue for showcasing world premieres, however rare they became.
I felt as if the whole of the 2008 show could have been shoe-horned into Halls 1 and 2 at the NEC, and those halls used to be just the preamble to what lay ahead in other equally vast halls.
Okay, the NEC was never going to rival the bi-annual Frankfurt or even Paris events. Nor did it quite have the cachet of Geneva, the smaller bijou event held each year at the beginning of March. But at least the NEC had a presence. For all its quality facilities, the Excel is far too small a venue to host an 'international' motor show.
No wonder so many manufacturers question the cost of maintaining a presence at a dying event. 'Bums in seats' is the name of the game and you can hardly blame a manufacturer if it prefers to host its own 'by invitation' event at a race circuit or proving ground.
If the trend these days is to have linked 'activities', then an exhibition venue surrounded by water is hardly the first place you would choose to host a motor show. The NEC has far more surrounding land to mount off-road and track activities.
Perhaps with the pending loss of the British Grand Prix, Silverstone should consider mounting a challenge to Excel. It is central, now has a good access road infrastructure, has different track layouts (both on and off-road) and its centre could host a major tented exhibition area. Now doesn't that remind me of a certain fleet event held years ago...