How many of us can put our hands on our hearts and say they’re really going to miss the British motor show? To the car industry and motoring journalists alike, motor shows are crucial trade fairs, where wares are peddled, exclusives granted, backs scratched and we all come together to catch up with the latest news and gossip.
But what have they to offer the paying punter? The chance to see in the flesh, but motionless and inaudible, a load of cars that have already been trailered extensively in magazines such as Autocar, newspapers and on the web.
The motor show is a concept stuck firm in the past. Back in the 1930s, the public flocked to Olympia to view the latest cars because there was no other way of seeing them. Today they’re rarely more than a click of a mouse away.
But that’s not really the point. The real reason the likes of Ferrari, BMW, Porsche, Audi and numerous others stay away is that they prefer to attend that other British motor show, more usually referred to as the Goodwood Festival of Speed. When last year I rang BMW to quiz them about their non-appearance in Docklands, the response was simple: “we can go to Goodwood for a small fraction of the money, reach more real prospects in the course of one weekend than during the entire motor show and let the public see our cars not on a stand, but in action. What would you do?”
Yesterday I was at Goodwood for the press day for this year’s festival and no one was surprised to see Ferrari, Porsche, BMW and Audi all turn up. BMW even demonstrated the new Z4 for the first time in this country. In his address, Lord March made much of the ‘mobile motor show’ theme. As well he might: he knows he has something in his garden no exhibition hall will ever be able to boast.
Goodwood is more expensive than ExCel ever was, but I’d be interested to discover if any of you didn’t reckon it represented better value. As a kid and I think like more true enthusiasts, I went to motor shows primarily for the exotic, high performance cars. And there are a higher quality and quantity of them at Goodwood than anywhere else in the world. What’s more, you’re able to see and hear them being driven flat out, as their makers intended.
British motor show? There will be one next year, just as there is going to be one this year. The dates are 3-5 July.