The Birmingham and Scottish motor shows could become the next casualties, after this year's London show, of the worldwide glut of such events and the popularity of the internet as a means of showcasing new vehicles.
As the world's leading motor manufacturers, many of which snubbed the Earl Court event, prepare for next week's Frankfurt show, Alan Pulham, franchised dealer director of the Retail Motor Industry Federation, today warned that the days of shows attracting massive corporate and public support as a matter of course were over.
“Not so long ago dealerships were like churches – cold and dank and you only visited one if you had to. As a result motor shows flourished. But now dealers are building the showrooms that can recreate the motor show experience, but without the crowds.”
The internet, he said, has also played its part. People can now find out about cars the moment they're launched.
“There are also so many shows across Europe that with air travel available so cheaply, a flight to Geneva for the day could cost less than a train ticket for some people to the Birmingham or London,” Mr Pulham said.
Cheap travel combined, he said, with manufacturers' ability to bring out new models in the UK when they want to rather than focussing on an October plate change also contributed to the demise of the UK motor show.
Mr Pulham described the attempts to revive the London motor show by its organisers, grouping cars, not by manufacturer but by sector as “an act of desperation”.
Before cancelling the event London show organisers, Clarion Events, attempted to breath new life into it by offering manufacturers a 'parking slot' in one of 10 showcases dedicated to the main model sectors, from city cars to 4x4s.
“The Scottish motor show has a limited life and I would suggest London and Birmingham also. Many in the industry see the prime European event as the Geneva show and possibly Detroit as the 'world show',” Mr Pulham said.
October's Earls Court event, which alternates with the British International Motor Show at Birmingham's NEC, was cancelled due to a lack of support from vehicle manufacturers. Eighteen manufacturers had announced they would not attend, while 11 were scheduled to exhibit.
Early indications from some manufacturers on the future popularity of UK motor shows backs up Mr Pulham's warnings.
BMW (GB), one of the manufacturers which said it would not be at the London event, has recently questioned the future viability of such events. Its managing director Jim O'Donnell claimed such shows were "not a pleasant environment in which to look at new cars", with thousands of motoring enthusiasts cramming Earls Court and the NEC to see the latest vehicles.