We bring you a round up of the highlights of the 2008 British motor show

There’s no getting away from it: the predominant colour — and major buzz-word — at this year’s London Motor Show was Green.

It’s everywhere – on signs and a record-breaking number of cars. Both main halls have green car areas stuffed with electric cars of various viability, and every major manufacturer had at least one special ‘green’ model, usually dubbed Eco-something, and demonstrating its maker’s commitment to a low-carbon future.

In stark contrast to the increasingly vocal ranks of green futurists —including our magnificently under-briefed Prime Minister — the volume car-makers know that before the world can be filled with new low-carbon models, which they’re well capable of building, the majority of buyers has to be prepared to pay for them.

Interestingly, the boldest use of green was on the stunning new 300 bhp Ford Focus RS, which sported a brilliant metallic paint-job mainly because the when the car was being developed, the order came down from Ford’s carbon-conscious bosses: “Whatever you do with that car, guys, make sure there’s a green angle.” Team RS boss Jost Capito, acting literally, painted the RS in a shade he dubbed Ultimate Green, but some of us wondered whether it wouldn’t have been better dubbed Ivory Tower Green. The car itself is brilliant, a painstaking development of the ST in every high-performance direction. There’s a cunning tweak to the strut front suspension which changes the strut angle to reduce wheel fight when you deploy the full 300 brake. Capito says the RS has less tortque steer than the ST - which has hardly any to start with. Lotus definitely crew the biggest press-day crowd with its late-morning unveiling of the new Evora, whose awkward name — announced by the Proton chairman at the show — didn’t cause as much negative comment as expected.

The car looked terrific, and won respect from other designers (Esprit designer Peter Stevens and Elise designer Julian Thompson were both in the crowd) but no-one was allowed to try and squeeze into the back to test the two-plus-two packaging because this solitary prototype has lots of work to do and they wanted to keep it pristine. Other significant high performance cars included the magnificent Chevrolet Camaro, a model soon to be made with an “economy” engine that shuts off half its cylinders when cruising, and the carbon-bonneted, roll-caged Renault R26R, which recently became the fastest-ever front-drive saloon at Nurburgring, and whose development was assisted by our own columnist and consummate wheel-man, Steve Sutcliffe.

Other stars included Honda’s OSM a pretty two-seater roadster dubbed ‘low emissions’ though its precise mechanical package wasn’t specified. It looked good enough, and practical enough to drive away from the show stand. After its London success two years ago with Corsa, Vauxhall followed through on its promise of another London world debut by unveiling the new Insignia, which most agreed looked terrific. The Insignia changes everything about Vauxhall’s staple family car. The forward-looking styling lays down ground rules for new Astra, coming next year. I’m with the Peugeot boss Jean Philippe Colin, who recently observed that the mainstreamers are closer than to the likes of Audi and BMW than ever before. Most of the German premium makers haven’t favoured London show with their presence this year (honourable exception: Mercedes-Benz) which I believe is an act of gross disloyalty to British car-lovers on the part of a group which trades at other times on customer loyalty and has made huge profits the UK from buyers’ preoccupation with high-spec cars.

The situation does throw focus, however, on how little influence the UK outposts of VW, Audi and BMW have on their core companies. Their managements are strictly car-shifters, and here’s the proof. I call down a plague, at least for the duration of the London Motor Show, on their houses. I’m interested in electric cars, as long as their potential and impact is kept in proportion. Pure battery-powered cars are starting to make attractive progress, mainly because good money and good brains (notably that of ex-Lotus MD, Clive Dopson) are being deployed to make them better. But they’re always going to be short-range vehicles that need daily down-time.

The biggest surprise of the show for me was the all-electric Lightning, a big, handsome super-coupe produced by a little company in Peterborough. The whole project started less than two years ago, yet the car seemed worthy of an Italian coachbuilders, and the stand showed footage of the car running in trials. Main impressions of the show? It was hugely enjoyable, though at least one of the organisers’ decisions was hard to fathom. Why hide the best-looking — McLaren SLRs, Ferraris and other top-end stuff — in an extra-cost Platinum Lounge away from the core of the show? It’s what your punters want to see.

Can the show survive? Sadly, I’d say that will come up for serious debate all over again. If 20 percent of your core manufacturers won’t commit, and the foreign hacks (imported by GM for the Insignia launch) can’t find things to do on press day, you’ve got a problem. Sure, London deserves its own motor show, but whether it can make it work is a starkly different question.

Steve Cropley

Watch our exclusive London show videos:Honda OSMVauxhall InsigniaLotus EvoraMega Hatches: Focus RS vs Megane R26RSubaru Impreza 380SStar cars

 

 

 

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Comments
8

23 July 2008

"an extra-cost Platinum Lounge"

Hold on a golly-gosh-darned minute; are you saying I have to pay extra to see the posh motors...? After having bought a ticket and flown down from Glasgow I have to pay more to see a Ferrari or McLaren...!?!? Well that's all right then because it's Ibizas and Corsas I really wanted to see and we don't get enough Mondeos or Focuses on the street either

Not happy about this at all; this is a joke - anyone treating their customers like this deserves to fail. Who the hell ever went to a motor show to look at the meat and potatoes?

24 July 2008

I guess "meat and potatoes" pay the bills for most car makers and to use another food analogy, we very much like their caviar they produce too. I for one though, won't be attending this year's motor show. Not only are most of the premium German car makers boycotting it but my own car's manufacturer, Chrysler won't be there either according to the report in this week's Autocar magazine I received yesterday. Also, to charge extra to see the really top stuff is asking too much. I'd rather go to the Classic Festival at Silverstone and see Ferraris. Personally, I rather see the show back in Birmingham where it's accessible to all by road. It is a MOTOR show after all.

24 July 2008

I went to preview day yesterday and would just like to air my feelings about this years show.

This was my first time to Excel as I couldn't make the last show. I travelled down from Staffordshire early yesterday and did not experience any traffic difficulties as anticipated and was directed to "car park B" where I was relieved of £10 to park on a piece of derelict land. The shuttle bus then took us over the river to another piece of waste ground near the entrance where we were greeted by what looked by a load of hastily erected hoardings which made up the entrance, not quite the welcoming experience you would expect for an interntional motor show.

Once inside the perimeter we were greeted by all the events laid on outside the exhibition hall, which although dominated by motor home exhibitors and refreshment stands did give you the feeling of this could be quite a good event. Mazda with there driving experience, Westfield with their drifting show, Vauxhall and their remote control cars, Land Rover and their off road experience and the obligatory go kart track.

On entering excel itself we were totally impressed by the fantastic range of eating and drinking venues, all totally professional and with plenty of seating areas.

When you do enter the main exhibition what first hit me was the impression of how spacious and airy the whole show is. Plenty of space between the stands to walk and plenty of room to move around on all of the manufacturers stands between their exhibits. But all this is for a reason. The total lack of number of major manufacturers at the show. Obviously everything has benn spread out to fill the available space left by the big boys. The amount of space given over to the "green brigade" was ridiculous, particularly when these were the quietest parts of the show given the number of people visiting these stands. Even Ford's always impressive showing was so spread out you felt that there was still a number of cars still to arrive at the show!

Now a personal complaint. Why do manufacturers continue to employ young women on their stands to give the sales pitch to the punters. I can fully agree in having attractive young women on the stands handing out literature and having their picture taken with the exhibits but why oh why try to get them to answer questions by the public when they have no knowledge of the product. One example being that whilst on the Jaguar stand looking at the V8 XF I was approached by said female if I required further information. When I stated to her that the car was a bit short of legroom she said that the car was not really aimed at the younger buyer with a growing family but perhaps the retired couple with no offspring to use the back seat. When I also said I would probably only be interested in the diesel version she told me this particular one was a diesel and that she was not sure whether they did a petrol version!! Not I think what Mr Tata would like to promote his new expensive purchase. The one's that got it right were Mini where the stand was manned by the manufacturers sales and marketing team, who knew the product inside out and gave impressive, informed information. Likewise with Bentley. One exception to the rule seemed to be the young ladies on Peugeot's stand, pleasant, well briefed and able to answer queries effectively.

However if there is a prize for the exhibitor who has the best collection of beautiful women on their stand then that should surely go to Alfa Romeo. I have never seen so many truly attractive women in one place, I would have loved to have had the job of picking that line-up. I know, a very sexist comment, but, what was the busiest stand at the show? Alfa Romeo!

Another disappointment was the retail part of the show, which at Birmingham was always the part to go to after the main event to look at all the accessory stands and model retailers and undoubtedly I would part with too much cash. London had too few exhibitors in this area, some of whom had nothing to do with cars. I do not like being approached at a motor show by N Power salesman asking me to switch energy suppliers! What is all that about?

Overall a big disappointment. With so many of the big players missing, hardly any exotica on show, this was not an International Motor Show, this was a destination to take the family if you live in or around London for a day out, have a look at a few cars, eat and drink, spend some money and have a look at some very expensive boats. I didn't think it was the Motor and Boat Show!

I overheard an executive, from the North West of England, on one of the stands, complaining that no matter what kind of inducement he had offered to his major customers none of them were interested in travelling all the way down to Excel.

Sorry, this was no International Motor Show, Excel is no NEC and quite frankly I left feeling very disappointed. The old Motorfair at Earls Court had more to offer than this.

And to finish on, I got back to the car to find it absolutely covered in white dust, the car park is next to a cement factory!!

25 July 2008

Well I LOVED it. Big, brave stands, loads of cars to see, the Top Gear Police Cars, nice, airy, cool and air conditioned halls, it was just even better than 2006. And I have to say, the big German brands not bothering to show will never be enough to put me off going!:-)

"The creative adult is the child who survived."

28 July 2008

Just back and have to admit I wasn't disappointed; it was excellent and I can't say I'm bothered about missing yet another BMW. I totally agree though; the Alfa girls were stunning, Gabrielle in particular making the 8C Spyder look like a beige Allegro. Sorry, I know I should have concentrated on the cars...

1 August 2008

Just got back from the show, spent the morning there for 'work' purposes but took the time to have a good look around. Thought it was great, perhaps could have done with a couple more car manufacturers (disappointed not to see Fiat and BMW). I ended up becoming a potential Suzuki buyer - going into the show I was after a Fiat 500 and had Fiat been at the show who knows which way I might have gone. Was impressed by the Vauxhall Insignia and at the general quality of the entire range of vehicles produced by the likes of Vauxhall, Ford, Hyundai/Kia, Renault and more. Although there weren't many supercar manufacturers around, the Times newspaper's stand more than made up for it with numerous Spykers, Zondas, Maserati's etc and the first time I have ever seen the Koenigsegg CCX. Also great to see Morgan there representing the UK.

1 August 2008

Oh yeah and the Mito looks great.

3 August 2008

The supercar companies may not have been there in an official capacity, but you couldn't turn around in that place without bumping into a piece of exotica. The heritage paddock outside (Countach and Enzo back-to-back - what a bloody brilliant sight), the Autoglym and Times supercar paddocks inside (am I right in thinking that there were four Zondas at the show in total?), the gorgeous Autocar LP640, the Gallardo coupe and spyder around the Ecurie stand, the two Challenge F430s, the TVR Cerbera Speed Twelve (!), 300SL, both the 8C variants at the Alfa stand, a Nissan GT-R you could sit in (the pictures don't really do that interior justice do they?), Ford GT with the Fords (surprise!)... Just about every modern supercar was on display. I was very disappointed that the advertised Miura was a no-show, though... I ended up buying a model SV to make up for it.

It did surprise me that Aston Martin didn't have an official presence at their home motorshow, however. You'd never see any of the Italian brands pass up Geneva.

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