Australian International Motor Show On Life Support

MyDrive | Written by Adam Tonkin
Australian International Motor Show – On Life Support.

The Australian International Motor Show’s (AIMS) heart is still pumping, but only barely.  The event is currently facing a tough and difficult future as a result of the cancellation of shows in Melbourne and Sydney in 2013 and 2014 respectively, due to reports of a lack of local and international interest from automotive manufacturers who state costs as the major factor.

With the downturn of the local economy and with further black clouds on the horizon, many people identify with the manufacturers stance on costs.  However, this does not correlate with Australian car sales statistics which are firmly in the black, so it is anyone’s guess why they have chosen this explanation.

Official VFACTS data released in June 2013 by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) states, “sales of passenger cars, SUVs and commercial vehicles, (YTD, January to June 2013) was 573,711 units, a 4.7 per cent increase on sales from the same period last year.  This is a further increase of 0.2 per cent on sales figures released the month before, April 2013. (Report from Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries – June 2013 | FCAI)

MyDrive | Current Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) Figures

MyDrive | Current Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) Figures

Until last year, the Australian International Motor Show has provided the Australian public with an annual opportunity to get ‘up close and personal’ with the best cars available in the country and more importantly, the show provided the chance to view all these vehicles under one roof.  However, with manufacturers pushing for more floor space, both facilities were confronted with the dilemma of having to expand (either temporarily or permanently) their current facilities or face the real possibility of AIMS looking for a new venues to host their event.

The Sydney and Melbourne Conference and Exhibition Centres must be called into question with the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre (SCEC) at Darling Harbour closing for two years to complete much needed upgrades and expansion work and the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC), submitting similar plans.

With millions of dollars to be spent on improvements, the cost to hire these facilities would inevitably increase. Might these be the ‘costs’ car makers are referring?

When the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre opened on Valentine’s Day in 1996, it was thought that the complex was far too big and that no one event would ever fill the floor space available under its massive roofline.  Fast forward to 2013 and the international appeal of such events like AIMS have skyrocketed and so have the requests for more floor space.

The popularity of AIMS in Melbourne can be firmly linked to the event being moved from March to the middle of the year where there is less competition from other international events.  This move instantly put Melbourne on the map for manufacturers wanting a world stage to launch new offerings.

With an ever growing list of models and variants from car manufacturer each year, the pillar-less 30,000 square metre Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, will no doubt struggle to contain future Motor Shows.

I spoke with AIMS Event Director, Russ Tyrie, to get an insight into how they have previously squeezed so many manufacturers into the Melbourne facility. Tyrie stated, “all venues offer a finite amount of space that we have to operate within and we work closely with the manufacturers and MCEC to monitor the available space.  They [MCEC] continue to offer us a premium facility and have always been very efficient in accommodating our requests.”

With the size of the Melbourne event becoming a glaring issue, could the simple answer be to take over the car park space immediately available under the Exhibition Centre?  This isn’t as silly as it would first seem as it would instantly provide double the floor space without having to move or extend the grounds around the MCEC.  However, this inevitably would create parking and transport chaos for businesses near the Exhibition Centre including guests and exhibitors attending the event.

In a recent interview with Peter King, CEO of Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, this was one question I put to him. King stated ”use of the car park facility or any car parking area within the grounds of the MCEC will continue to be used for car parking only and will be unavailable as exhibitor space”.

MyDrive | Peter King - CEO Melbourne Convention Exhibition Centre (MCEC)

MyDrive | Peter King – CEO Melbourne Convention Exhibition Centre (MCEC)

With a plan in mind, MCEC last year designed and submitted extension plans to the Victoria Government that would increase the roofline and floor space by a further 12,500 square metres.  The plans have been approved, however, funding is yet to be sourced.

King explained, ”the extra 12,500 square metres would provide the facility with greater flexibility in housing a number of larger exhibitions with the added flexibility of offering floor space to several exhibitions on the same day under the one roof”.

MyDrive | Melbourne Convention Exhibition Centre - Planned Extension

MyDrive | Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre – Planned Extension

With no mention or future plan to fund the extension in the recent Victorian State budget, Melbournians must now look towards the 2014 budget for funds to extend and improve the now 17 year old facility.

This news must come as a severe blow to Victorians especially with the New South Wales Government already approving funds to start the much needed upgrade and expansion of the aging Sydney Convention and  Exhibition Centre, located in Darling Harbour.

King went on to say, “with no funding in the foreseeable future, MCEC will have to be savvy and creative with their current floor space”, King further added, “We will look to better utilise the foyer and green space that we have access to including the bar and restaurant area towards the newly developed Hilton Hotel. We will also activate areas of land outside of the roofline to provide food services and drinks through our liquor licences.”

I asked Mr Tyrie if AIMS had considered alternatives such as the newly renovated Melbourne Showgrounds, “never say never, although we always approach using extra space at MCEC with an open mind.”

A solution for parking and transport from the CBD for local, interstate and international visitors would need to be addressed before the organisers could contemplate the Melbourne Showgrounds as a viable option.

AIMS will hopefully return to Melbourne in 2015 with much fanfare, although Sydney in 2016 could be of real concern if the SCEC renovations are not complete. Plan B would need to be executed, moving the event to Homebush, the site of the 2000 Olympic Games, which was the plan for AIMS 2014.

It is a fine line to try something different by moving AIMS to a more suitable venue or, alternatively risk it all by postponing the event once again and continuing to further disappoint keen show-goers.

The fallout for the Australian International Motor Show after a four year break could potentially be significant. It is hoped that organisers will entice manufacturers and the paying public back to the event that has previously proved so popular.

Any questions in relations to this article, please leave a response in the comment field below or contact Adam Tonkin via the Contact Us page.

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