The great advantage of the digital age is that almost anything is accessible to view online. 

However a major disadvantage is that while you can look, you cannot touch.  The car buying process has been influenced greatly by the internet. Ten years ago new car buyers visited seven dealer showrooms on average before deciding which car to buy while today most only make just the one visit.

As the internet enables you to search for any new car, configure it, look at it in different colours, arrange finance and insurance and organise a test drive you only need to go to a dealer to collect the car. What a mind-numbing experience that is!

That’s no way to treat what is likely to be the second most expensive purchase you’ll make. A purchase that should be more than just a means of getting from A to B. Where’s the excitement, the passion? We’re a car loving nation but don’t behave like one.

When was the last time the ‘great unwashed’ (‘joe/joanne public’ to you and I) went to a proper motor show? By proper I mean a motor show where vehicle manufacturers invest huge amounts of money in an impressive stand to showcase their latest products and usually some concept cars, future projects or technology. If he/she live in the Midlands, probably in 2004 when the British International Motor Show was last held at the NEC or if they live in London, in 2008 when it was last at ExCel. The NEC is a tired venue in a central location while ExCel is a great venue in a lousy location. 

When there was a regular annual or bi-annual British motor show crowds used to flock to Olympia, Earls Court or latterly to the NEC to see the latest cars. They would usually either marvel or laugh at what they saw, collect brochures, badges and stickers, eat a dodgy burger or hot dog, buy a show catalogue to remind them of what they missed and go home happy. 

In the late 1970s it was decided to move the motor show from London to Birmingham to the newly built NEC to make it more accessible to those people who lived up t’north. The first show there was in 1978 and all the exhibits were in just one location, Hall  5. There was so much crowding and flocking on the first public day that by early afternoon the giant metal fire doors had to be lowered to stop people entering the hall until those already there had left. 

But over the years there was less crowding and flocking as visitors demanded more than just to be able to look at cars and as the attendances declined manufacturers began to question the levels of investment required to continue to support a motor show in the UK. 

Odd that many of those same manufacturers are now very happy to invest even more money to display their products in a field near the south coast as The Festival of Speed at Goodwood, held this week, has always been able to extract money from manufacturers and sponsors wanting to benefit from the halo effect of the event.

It is unique and if you haven’t already been please plan to do so, you won’t regret it. For it is now the British Motor Show. But if you don’t want to go to Goodwood and still want to see a proper motor show why not go to Switzerland?

The Geneva Auto Salon is on in the first week of March and tickets this year cost about £10. For £100 you can buy a return ticket on easyJet from Glasgow or Manchester, less from Birmingham or Luton. It’s an annual event, unlike Frankfurt and Paris motor shows which alternate every two years. You can arrive in the morning, take the 15 minute walk to the show, spend a whole day there, eat some decent food and be home by midnight.

It’s arguably one of the best car related day trips you can have. Why? Because not only do you see all the latest cars on sale throughout Europe as well as some that are not on sale in the UK but also the greatest collection of concept cars and design projects you’re likely to find in any European motor show. And the great thing is that, just like at Goodwood, you can look and you can touch.  Captain Pugwash

A British motor show will be held in Battersea, London next year and it will be interesting to see how this is supported by the manufacturers in a city which is gradually moving toward banning cars completely unless they are electric powered, which is a very small percentage of those sold.
Share This