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INTERVIEW: Motorexpo reports increased exhibitor interest

By Dave Leggett | 11 June 2010

The 2009 Canary Wharf London Motorexpo

The 2009 Canary Wharf London Motorexpo

The organiser of the 'London Motorexpo' event that showcases premium brand cars to the public has told just-auto that the event is attracting increased interest from exhibitors.

“We are really pleased with the turnout from manufacturers this year,” said Graeme Carver, Motorexpo CEO.

“Last year's show took place in a difficult market, but this year's event has seen a bounce-back in terms of interest and we have three new brands exhibiting with us,” he added.

The London Motorexpo takes place (it is being staged this week and finishes on Sunday, June 13) in the Canary Wharf complex in London's docklands where a cluster of investment banks and financial institutions have sited their London operations. The high density of relatively affluent professionals in a concentrated area creates a natural constituency for brands that target them as consumers.

Motorexpo works in partnership with the Canary Wharf estate owners (Canary Wharf Group) to make low-cost exhibition pitches available to motor manufacturers. Most are in the open air around the site. The captive market of local workers have free access to the range of mainly upscale cars and motorbikes on display.

Vehicles on display this year include the Bentley Continental Supersports Convertible, the BMW 320d EfficientDynamics, the Jaguar XKR with Speedpack, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class Cabriolet, the Mazda MX-5 Superlight concept, the Mini Countryman, new Saab 9-5, Skoda Superb Estate and the Volvo S60. The Tesla Roadster is also present and Infiniti is displaying its full vehicle line-up for the first time at any UK motor show. Motorcycle brand Norton is also there.

Land Rover is present with its 'Driving Experience', which is a big draw. Visitors can experience driving Land Rovers in a variety of challenging conditions on their demonstration course.

“That is a very successful activity for Land Rover,” says Carver. “They tell me that it is hugely successful in terms of reaching large numbers and, especially, the quality of those people to whom they are exposing their brand and product.”

High quality visitor footfall also translates into sales. “The exhibitors tend to have a mixture of product people and sales people on duty. Certainly the ability to generate sales from the visitors is a major attraction to an event like this,” maintains Carver. “And we have also kept it low-cost to ensure that it works for the manufacturers. We don't have the same kind of overheads that the more traditional events in show halls have to contend with.”

Carver says that they are expecting 350,000 visitors to the event. At the weekend the atmosphere changes with more day-trippers who have made special trips and more families.

“Clearly the focus during the working week is the two-thirds of visitors who live or work in the Canary Wharf area. But the change of emphasis at the weekend also creates another distinct opportunity for the exhibitors,” says Carver. “It will be a slightly different demographic.”

Carver is also interested in taking the concept to other similar locations. The annual London event is now in its 15th year and the third annual Motorexpo event for New York takes place in September. An LA Motorexpo debuted in May this year.

A Toronto event for this year was scuppered when a G20 Summit date was shifted and Carver decided that the protesters' circus and security hassles that come with the G20 ruled it out. But a Toronto Motorexpo is planned for next year.

“The key to replicating the event is having some easily accessible space allied to high density offices. You need to be able to reach a lot of people with a small footprint,” he says. “And there are other places with the right characteristics that we are looking at.”

Does Motorexpo make a lot of money? “We don't make huge swathes of cash,” Carver maintains. “It is commercially successful, but I got into this business because I love cars and I saw an opportunity. But it's a long-term project and we are primarily interested in providing a good service to the manufacturers. For example, we have to give them five years' notice if we want to stop, so that generates a degree of certainty for planning purposes.”

There is, however, one thing that impacts the Motorexpo that Mr Carver cannot be certain about, especially in Britain. Some 70% of the exhibitors at the London event are outdoors. The weather makes a difference.

“The weather hasn't been great this week,” he cheerfully admits. “Of course, I would rather we'd had the previous week's weather...[it was mainly sunny and warm]”

“But it looks like the weekend will be fine.”