The SMMT has already held a post-mortem with its advisory panel of carmaker marketing directors, and says the feedback is “generally positive”. It intends to hold more meetings, but insists the show was a success, quoting research which revealed that 97% of the 461,000 visitors enjoyed the event and 92% would be ‘very likely’ to visit again.
“We said we wanted 500,000 and above to attend, but there were a number of reasons why we fell short,” says SMMT head of communications Paul Everitt. He blames transport issues caused by track work on the West Coast Mainline, which resulted in fewer visitors from the south-east, and the decision to move the show from its traditional October slot to May. “The new date meant a different visitor market, and sunny days in May bring more competition from other leisure interests compared with grey days in October,” says Everitt, although he rules out moving the date back.
“But we have stopped the decline in attendance numbers – now we have to build on that for the future. And the people who did attend were looking seriously at cars with a view to what they were going to buy.”
One senior managing director, speaking to AM before the final visitor figures were announced, took a different view. “The number of leads we took was very disappointing. We will wait to find out the final attendance figures, but it’s not looking good,” he said.
And while the SMMT could rightly claim to have created a show that met the vision of leading carmakers, another boss distanced himself from any suggestion of complicit failure. “It’s up to the SMMT to make the show work,” he says.
Others are more positive, according to Everitt. He says Ford – which released a statement proclaiming itself “absolutely delighted” – Vauxhall, Daewoo and Honda were all upbeat about the show, although there were concerns, including cost of attending, parking fees and food.
But he unequivocally pledged critics: “There will be a 2006 show.”