Blog: Dave LeggettParis Motor Show organisers talk Brum

Dave Leggett | 17 May 2004

The RAC club was worth a punt on Friday. There were a few people to catch up with and the Paris Show organisers were surprisingly candid about…well, about pretty much anything really. Or more specifically, Paris show general manager Thierry Hesse was excellent value for money. You could ask him for an opinion on the moon landings and you’d get a full and frank fifteen-minute answer. The assembled UK journalists saw an opportunity to get him to talk about something a little more interesting than the Paris Show – not that that’s a boring subject exactly, it’s just rather a done deal. After a promo video and a couple of questions about Paris, to be polite, we were into something a little more meaty.

What did Thierry think about the UK’s Birmingham Motor Show? Act of desperation by the organisers, SMMT, in turning it into a consumer event and what about that not exactly low-key Sunday Times sponsorship? Well, that’s for the organisers, he ventured politely, before coming in for the kill: “..but for me, I wouldn’t do it that way. For me, I don’t think it is a good choice to re-launch for the public in this way. I’m not sure that it is good for Great Britain or the importance of the show in relation to Paris, Geneva, Tokyo, Frankfurt, Detroit. And to have one media as exclusive sponsor? That is not in our mentality. Let  me say quite categorically, that we would never do such a thing and to have the media name in the show title? [Gallic shrug] I’ve not seen that before. No, we would never do that. You will never see something, say, like 'Le Monde Paris Motor Show'. No, that's unthinkable for us. We are prudent and we open our doors to all media.

But the Birmingham show perhaps reflects the history and condition of the British car industry and that is, for me, very sad.”

Thanks for the sympathy, Thierry.

And Birmingham as a location? Again something for the organisers, of course, but Thierry offered the view that London, like Paris, is a fine city with a big global name and one that perhaps will be a better international draw than Birmingham.

One thing I didn’t quite appreciate was that the organisers of the Paris show have had some success in organising other motor show events - as sub-contractors - around the world, including shows in Buenos Aires, Bucharest and Cairo. They’re doing one in Mexico (for AMIA) in December this year.

Would they, perhaps, also like to do the next British show, in 2006, for the SMMT? What a question! Well, that would be a little complicated, Thierry said - keeping a straight face - but if asked they’d certainly consider (he now looked like he was struggling to keep the polite smile to decent proportions).

It should be interesting to see how ‘The Sunday Times Motor Show Live’ goes down. I reckon it’s a brave move by the SMMT to try and do something a little different with the event. 

The basic problem I think is that the raison d’etre for the ‘British Show’ has gone with the loss of an indigenous volume car making industry in this country (and MG Rover doesn’t really count). There’s no big natural industry constituency or backer the way there is for the others – Paris for PSA and Renault, Frankfurt for the Germans, Tokyo for the Japanese, Detroit for the Americans and Geneva as a respected and smaller-scale European neutral. Birmingham lacks a ‘head of steam’ behind it, or a clear reason for existence and is, in a sense, a historical anomaly.

Anyway, I had the distinct sense that it was no accident that Thierry and the Paris show organisers were in London to smooze with UK journalists just before the Birmingham show. ‘Look guys, let’s be clear: Paris is the European industry show for this year, so you can just forget about that well-meaning but sad little tin-pot affair at the NEC in Birmingham. And I’m sorry to tell you that most people outside the UK have never even heard of the place, let alone want to visit it.’ He didn’t actually say that of course, he was far too polite.

Thierry Hesse is pictured below on the rooftop terrace at the RAC club, Pall Mall, last Friday afternoon. My three lunchtime dining companions in the other shot are, left to right, Chris Phillips (Motor Industry Magazine), Massimo Pini (New Car Net) and freelancer David Barrett. The terrace was an agreeable place for lunch, I must say. And the weather was kind.


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