Permit my New Year’s Day view of 2008 to be slightly clouded by the fact I live in London, and let’s look forward to a scorchingly hot July 23rd when the London Motor Show opens.
Although Vauxhall is the only car-maker yet to confirm a launch — for the Insignia, the Vectra replacement — it's an open secret in the industry that Ford is set to make London the venue for the Focus RS reveal, Saab has a small-car concept, the 9-1X, pencilled in for the show and Hyundai UK is working hard to convince its Korean masters to give the new i40c coupe its first European airing in the capital. Also being readied is the launch of the new Lotus ‘Eagle’ 2+2.
But the really tantalising prospect is that of Ferrari considering bringing the global launch of the 'F149', its front-engined every-day-driver 2+2 , to London. Where better to launch an Italian competitor to the two British cars — Aston Martin’s DB9 and Bentley’s Continental GT — who together have opened-up a new segment for luxury coupes so far untouched by Maranello?
In fact, when you consider that the UK is Ferrari’s second biggest market outside of Italy, and that Europe’s financial powerhouse in the City is just down the road, it’s surprising that Ferrari missed last year.
Ferrari UK tells me there’s never been a new Ferrari launched at a UK show. The nearest it can find is the 1959 event at Earls’ Court, when a fresh-faced Mike Hawthorn used it to sell a brace of 250GTs he’d bought from Enzo, the first time Ferraris had been officially-available in the UK.
Anyway, a new Ferrari at London would be a fab coup for the show, and another step in the right direction for a key motoring event that once looked like slipping off the calendar entirely.
Apart from the vision of the car-makers body the SMMT to do something different with the stagnating show, we have two exhibition entrepreneurs Tim Etchells and Rob Mackenzie to thank for trying to breath new life into the old dog. Etchells, better known as ‘Mr Fashion Week’, is also a co-owner of the Angel Pub in Wiltshire with celeb chef Anthony Worral Thompson, while Mackenzie makes the London Boat Show tick.
Not surprisingly, one of 2008’s new ideas is to link exotic cars and boats in an invitation-only private club for city high-flyers to unload anything remaining of the year’s bonus.
New attractions with a more enthusiast bent include a drift school with passenger rides, likely to be in conjunction with Caterham, and a parade of supercars themed to bring some of Goodwood’s magic to Docklands.
The show is a week later this year compared to 2006, because of blah blah, which puts it into the second week of the School summer holidays. Probably a good idea for family visitors, many of whom jet off as soon as the school bell goes for end of term.
Anyway the organisers are already predicting 550k visitors compared to 416k in 2006. Similarly, 60 car-manufacturers, both large and small, are expected, ten more than in 06.
Disappointingly, it looks as if Audi, BMW, Rolls and VW won’t be exhibiting again. All should feel a bit sheepish since the loyality of UK car buyers has partly contributed to their recent rise in fortunes and a bit of return support wouldn’t go amiss.