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Rival show rumours as ATS plans return

News that the Automotive Trade Show is to return to the NEC, Birmingham, next March has been given a mixed reception by an aftermarket industry with a clear memory of low attendance at the last four-day event in 2001 and the unsuccessful attempt to revive it this year, renamed as auto1.

Most observers thought they had seen the last of a major UK automotive aftermarket show, whether standalone or as part of an established event, following the cancellation of the London Motor Show, two planned Crash Internationals, the “postponement” of auto1 and this year's Fleet Show.

But ATS organiser the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders and marketing consultant Crystal Communications are confident they have the formula for a successful event, which will be run alongside the Commercial Vehicle Show at the NEC from March 23 to 25.

In 1999, ATS attracted almost 20,000 visitors. Two years later, when the event was renamed the European Automotive Trade Show, numbers fell to about 4000. Organisers blamed the slump on the collapse of the Finelist parts distribution empire and on generally tough trading conditions.

SMMT spokesman Robin Dickeson says the new three-day format offers exhibitors “real value for money” – up to 58 per cent reductions on 2001 space rates – as well as footfall from the CV Show.

The decision to revive ATS – when speculation is circulating that a rival organisation is also planning an aftermarket trade show – took former event supporters by surprise. Few had been consulted. “It's not something we've picked up on our radar,” says a spokeswoman for Unipart, and a refinish company representative adds: “First I've heard of it. We've pulled all our show budgets anyway.”

Crystal Communications' chief executive Bob Sockl says: “We've been very secretive. But we know what we're doing.”

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