All the comings and goings from a show that almost didn't happen
8 May 2009

The Barcelona motor show celebrated its 90th anniversary this year, but it almost didn’t happen.

Until two months ago the show shared the same fate as next year’s London motor show – cancelled, amid a lack of interest from manufacturers desperate to tighten their belts as car sales went into freefall.

See full gallery of Barcelona show pics

That it was saved is a tale in itself. The government stepped in, heavily subsidising stand space with tax payer’s money in order to ensure the show went ahead. You can’t see that happening for the London motor show, somehow.

Manufacturers responded in their droves – with some putting the money they saved into large, grand stands, and others adding to the event’s kudos by just being there.

Local giants Seat led the way, building their own stand and providing the bulk of interest with four launches of new variants, the Ibiza Bocanegra, Ibiza FR, Ibiza 25th Anniversary Edition and the Leon Cupra.

Beyond that you had to look to the minnows for new car excitement. Ssangyong showed its C200 Aero and Eco concept cars, which had been seen before at the Seoul motor show, but which looked well built and modern. Dacia, meanwhile, unveiled the Sandero Stepway, a new model to Europe, but one that is on sale in Brazil.

Otherwise, showgoers had to be content with seeing concept cars and new cars that had previously been shown elsewhere – the new Range Rover, Range Rover Sport, and Land Rover Discovery led the way, followed by the likes of the VW Polo, Skoda Yeti, Mitsubishi i-Miev Sport Air and Renault ZE Concept. Audi even wheeled out its Cross Coupe Concept, a concept car now several years old.

While the fact that Seats, Ssangyongs and Dacias were among the highlights of the new or European debut launches is telling as to the global status of the show – it’s very much a second or third tier event in the scheme of global motor shows – it shouldn’t detract from the fact it is a worthwhile event.

Drawing in the likes of the local importers from Aston Martin, Maserati, Ferrari, Morgan and Lotus added a sheen, while the vast stands from major manufacturers such as VW, Skoda, Fiat, BMW, Renault, and even the GM and Chrysler brands and so on added depth and quality.

Certainly there is plenty the likes of the London motor show could learn from it, too. While the location with its massive, sun-drenched outdoor arena and the looming palace that houses the Catalunya art gallery might be hard to replicate, ideas such as the public test drive centre are far more realistic. Manufacturers responded by offering around a hundred cars for punters to try out, and it is that sort of initiative that brings a show to life.

Of course, the future still remains uncertain, but when a show this big, and this enticing can be laid on at such short notice, you certainly hope it’s going to see its 100th anniversary and beyond.

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