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Rover and the French upset SMMT

For purists the Birmingham motor show is not worth visiting. All the major 2001 model year debuts were in Paris a few weeks ago and the global industry's senior executives did not bother to attend the NEC.

This has resurrected the old issue of whether the British International Motor Show should be staged in Birmingham or London. The higher global status of the Paris show continues to irritate Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders which once staged the UK event in early September to try to outflank the French.

That was a failure because it was before the half-term holiday which hit attendance figures.

For the vast majority of this year's forecast 750,000 NEC visitors this is the first chance to see new Mondeo, Laguna, Mini and many more cars.

They are not seeing the products of MG Rover which saved money by not taking a stand. That was a matter for them, said SMMT chief executive Christopher Macgowan, who (at an Automotive Management business day breakfast at the show) was clearly displeased by MG Rover's attempts to belittle his show.

Ironically Proton – which has denied any interest in Rover – was not at the show either.

Thousands from the industry who were there on business/fleet day toured a superbly presented show. In terms of staging and setting, it made Paris look distinctly second division.

Praise then to the SMMT team for getting the 'big picture' right because the vast halls of the NEC have never felt more harmonious for a motor show. The detail was good, too, with signposts at aisle junctions to help visitors navigate from AC Car Group (hall 6) to Volvo Car UK (hall 4).

Volvo and the rest of the Ford family occupy hall 4 and, according to a press day rumour, the total cost was £17m. Ford was quietly pleased about the way it managed to make the presence of its brands distinctive and yet cohesive. Dominating the hall was 'Ford city', covering 6,000 square metres and, the manufacturer believed, the most floor space it has bought anywhere at a motor show.

At Mitsubishi Motors' traditional UK show press dinner, managing director Jim Tyrrell (a former Ford executive) described hall 4 as “that monolith to Ford's European ego”.

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