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Car confidential: Motor shows deserves more respect

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Review

London is one of the world’s greatest cities, but I’m afraid its motor show hasn’t yet burst onto the global scene.

We’re only days away from the 2008 British International Motor Show, but it remains firmly on the B-list for many carmakers.

It’s not all gloom and doom.

There will be exciting models and plaudits go to the organisers for pulling off some damn significant world debuts: the Vauxhall Insignia, Ford Focus RS, Alfa Romeo Mito and Lotus Eagle are four important launches to get enthusiasts and salesmen alike salivating – and there are plenty of minor premieres to boot.

But I just can’t escape the daunting number of absentees that haunt the Excel show.

At the last count, all of the following were shunning London from July 22 to August 3: Aston Martin, Audi, BMW, Caterham, Chrysler, Daihatsu, Fiat, Lamborghini, Mitsubishi, Porsche, Rolls-Royce, Skoda, Volkswagen and Volvo.

When the UK is western Europe’s third biggest car market by volume – and a key manufacturer of components, engines and whole cars – that’s pretty disgraceful.

Especially when many of the absentees have crunch new cars to launch (think new Audi Q5, Porsche 911 and Aston Martin V8) yet have chosen to wait a full three months for the more established Paris salon.

And the UK’s capital is a huge market for high-price premium cars.

More fool the manufacturers snubbing London.

It’s sad that the British motor show has never fully recovered from the shenanigans that haunted the alternating Earls Court/NEC expos of old – and the Excel show remains firmly on the second-tier of global motor shows.

The UK automotive sector employs 851,800 people and exports £24 billion of products.

I reckon an industry with a tenth of the population dependent on it deserves more respect from car manufacturers.

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