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SMMT's last-ditch efforts to save British Motor Show

A host of new ideas for next year's British International Motor Show will be the last chance for success - or organisers will pull the plug on the historic event. Attendance has halved from 1m 10 years ago as the show fought a losing battle with improved dealer-based displays.

New ideas include moving the 50-year-old show, to be renamed Motor Show Live, forward from October to May and offering drivers a host of interactive attractions.

Holding it at the Birmingham NEC earlier in the year – between May 26 and June 6 - will encourage more visitors, with longer daylight hours and better weather, says the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

The move also facilitates plans for up to 3000 visitors to take road tests at a new-style ride and drive event. Visitors as young as 14 years old will be encouraged to test cars on a special track at the NEC. More than 300 cars will have to be provided for the event by manufacturers, which have expressed guarded support for the proposals. Industry executives want to see a rise in visitor numbers at the show and better feedback before they will commit.

Ford and MG Rover say they support the plans in principle but, like other carmakers, they have not made any formal commitment.

If more women and families cannot be persuaded to attend the show, its future will be reconsidered before the 2006 event is given the go-ahead.

“The days of visitors looking at static cars on stands have long gone and it's time to show the world how it can be done,” says Tod Evans chairman of Peugeot Citroen Automobiles UK.

At the 2002 motor show, several manufacturers including BMW and Audi took commercial decisions not to exhibit.

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