Walking up the stairs to the Melbourne Exhibition Centre, ready for my very first Motor Show experience, I was unsure of exactly what to expect.
I knew there was a fair chance I’d be outnumbered in the gender stakes and also a good chance of my self esteem taking a hit when it came to the gorgeous models – those I could cope with.
What I wasn’t sure of was if I’d even comprehend the many speeches, let alone enjoy the experience and wondered if I’d be left feeling alienated while the ‘blokes’ did their thing.
But I have to say here and now, that I loved the day. Many of the big car companies seemed to have turned their attention to the female and family market, and rightly so, as women have the final say in a car more often than not when it comes to a practical purchase.
Affordability, lowered fuel economy, and more spacious interiors were often spoken phrases and ones which are music to a mother’s ears.
The overhanging cloud of the Global Financial Crisis and the need for more environmentally conscious productions was most certainly at the forefront of everyone’s minds. However, despite the “current climate” as was so often referred to, the Melbourne International Motor Show presented a positive front.
Rather than the doom and gloom of the credit crunch and the environment buckling under the weight of carbon emissions, the focus was pushed towards the technology which these conditions are forcing – leaving a softer environmental footprint and packing value into vehicles.
Of course, there were exceptions, and what would a motor show be without the ridiculously expensive but oh-so-cool sports cars, after all that is what first springs to mind for most when a Motor Show is mentioned.
And I’ll be the first to admit that sliding into the low slung seat of a Lamborghini and marvelling at all its glory had me forgetting the two small children I had left at home (with a babysitter!) and the need for child seat anchors. There were plenty of gorgeous offerings to dream about and admire just as much as the practical solutions.
The lights were bright, the music was loud and the celebrities and sports stars strutted out in front of car after car. I had several moments where I had to remind myself I wasn’t at a rock concert or fashion show and the whole point was in fact the four wheeled masterpieces.
There were more satin sheets than a fancy hotel and the battle of the coffee machines was also a hot topic of conversation. Oh, but that’s right, the cars. If I didn’t already know it, the car industry is a competitive playing field. Each manufacturer pulled out bigger and better tricks to capture the attention of the mingling media.
The ten minute ‘productions’ by each company were impressive and entertaining and my prior fears of trying to take in every word of a boring speaker were quickly allayed. Stands went to extraordinary lengths to excite media over their offering with the audio visual guys working overtime and handing out press kits to better the last.
The first three presentations, from Toyota, Ford and Holden respectively all had the common trend of reducing fuel emissions and packing value into new vehicles. Toyota’s dramatic unveilings of the hybrid Camry and Prius was the perfect example of what was to come for the day, much talk about the future and preserving the environment.
Ford went all out at the modelling agency to dress up the ‘typical’ owners of each of their vehicles to be “unwrapped” in Ford’s words. It took the environmentally friendly thing to a new level, wrapping its cars in “biodegradable cellophane”. The Mondeo wagon definitely caught my attention from the family perspective.
The Melbourne International Motor Show isn’t for the faint hearted, keeping up with the fast-paced schedule is no mean feat, especially in high heels. This is where I suppose the manufacturers listed down the timetable pull out the attention grabbing spectacles to bring the weary journalists their way.
Celebrities or “ambassadors” as they were referred to by the companies were a dime a dozen, a Kate Cebrano performance, and entire launch speech formulated into song by the Scared Weird Little Guys, a Sandra Sully interview, Todd Woodbridge, Brendan Fevola, Kylie Minogue impersonator, sports stars backing their sponsors and child dancers were just some of the ways the manufacturers tried to prove their mechanical masterpiece was the best.
The crux of these motor shows is of course pushing the next breed of vehicles, the latest technology and innovative ideas to make motoring more comfortable, safer and advanced. While the popular cars I see in the soccer carpark were all there and showing off improvements, I found myself surprised by other manufacturers I hadn’t factored into the family thinking.
Skoda unveiled the new Octavia wagon alongside the Superb sedan. Despite all the talk of fuel economy, comfort, and under the bonnet specifics, which are of course all very important, one thing that stuck in my mind was the Superb’s clever twin door boot system.
The sedan’s boot can be opened conventionally or as a liftback, depending on the size of item required from the large storage space. It is innovative ideas like this, coupled with the above, which will appeal to the family market and draw in the female vote in my opinion.
I didn’t always have my mum hat on, the new generation Mazda3 was displayed in the most gorgeous blue (also took note of the models’ matching dresses) and when Kia’s Soul hits the market, it is going to be a major winner with the chicks with 61 options available to fully individualise the compact cars that looks like an SUV.
The Subaru Exiga also sparked my interest, but more for the six-seat practicality than the appearance, which I felt was a little outdated. However Subaru reliability and DVD entertainment system as standard are I’m sure going to draw the attention of those looking for the family wagon.
Electric Vehicles were also a large contender with several stands offering spoken concept ideas, concept vehicles in the metal or production-ready vehicles of the plug-in variety. It seems the race is on to produce an Electric Vehicle that has the fastest ‘quick-charge’ time and the longest travelling distance and while I can’t see the family fitting into an electric car just yet, the technological possibilities are exciting.
Despite the glitz, glamour and large scale production happening inside the Melbourne Exhibition Centre which created somewhat of a magical car world disconnected to outside realities for those few hours, speakers weren’t oblivious to recent happenings with many condolences extended to victims of Victoria’s bushfires.
There was so much to see and absorb, I could go on for pages to take you through all the details, but let me conclude by saying revhead or not, male or female, family-minded or single, the Melbourne International Motor Show is definitely worth a look (and here is where I mention the signs I saw for parenting rooms) as, although the overwhelming feel may still be aimed at males, the future is promising and exciting for the female and family markets.
For our full coverage of the Melbourne International Motor Show click here.