Blog: €6m sticker price at the London Show
Dave Leggett | 24 July 2008
London's Motor Show this week was quite a busy event for us (naturally) and it's a show that I find intriguing on a number of levels. For one thing, people seem quick to point out the deficiencies (and the Excel venue is indeed an a**e to get to, no doubt about that, whether driving or on public transport - it's in a grotty and sprawling part of east London that is being regenerated). And the press centre was a little overrun at times - some people could be seen working on the floor.
But then again Birmingham's NEC wasn't exactly perfect either and I don't understand the mentality of journalists who say it's not worth attending - especially British-based ones. There was certainly plenty to see, people to talk to, even if it wasn't dripping with big world premieres the way the A-list shows do.
One thing the organisers have been clever about is the timing. Late July is in the summer dead zone when little is going on auto show-wise - the big shows are Jan-March, okay April if we include Beijing/Shanghai and Sept-Oct. There is plenty of copy to be had from London - whether you are looking for product stories and consumer angles or the industry stuff we major in at just-auto - at a time of the year when it goes a bit quiet in terms of product unveilings/news.
And while the venue isn't all that easy to get to, once you're there that's soon forgotten - it's a good size and works pretty well for exhibitors. There's space outside for the interactive stuff with the punters and the water surrounding the place adds another interesting element. Will half a million punters rock up to the Show - the figure the organisers have said they are looking for? If they get more than the 420K that attended the last one, say 450K, that will be very good going in the current climate.
I actually had to rush about quite a bit doing interviews and meetings, but a few things impressed. GM Europe's Insignia looks a million miles away (and in the right direction) from the Vectra it replaces. Nice lines and a quality feel to the interior; journos I spoke to had good things to say about it. But Segment D in Europe is no picnic, especially this year and next. It's being squeezed from above and below - will be interesting to see how it does - GM Europe wants to sell 150K (that's what C-PF said, but I thought I had heard 200K...) pa versus 140K on Vectra. That's a big ask, however good the car is.
Incidentally, Carl-Peter Forster told me that he thinks the Western European car market will decline this year and be flat in 2009 - no-one seems to think a fast market rebound is around the corner.
New Fiesta looks very, very good - much more visual impact than the current one.
Another nice small car is the Alfa Romeo MiTo. Stylish and now looks like the time for stylish small cars. The name had me thinking. MiTo is Mi for Milan and To for Torino (Turin). Could Rover have had 'CoLon' (COwley and LONgbridge)? Sorry, that's the kind of childish frivolity that goes through the mind while running to get to an interview slot. And there's sensory overload going on constantly on press day at motor shows. Your eyes just don't know where to put themselves on occasions, such is the visual feast that motor shows the world over specialise in.
In the late afternoon of the press day I was invited to a champagne reception by Chris Macgowan and Courland (automotive exective recruitment) in a suite on the giant building's first floor (there were some interesting people and off-the-record conversations to be had there).
When I exited the lift on Excel's first floor I looked down a narrow corridor that stretched as far as the eye could see - both ways. I was momentarily dumbstruck. A passing waitress told me it's the longest corridor in Europe and I can believe that. Anyway, the view from the balcony over the Royal Victoria dock was of some very serious league Sunseeker yachts parked up in a row. There was a big one that might suit a middling Russian oligarch, perhaps. Imagine having €6m to spend on a boat. I guess Roman Abramovich would see them as little more than dingys; it's all relative.
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