The co-organisers of the newly formed Australian Motoring Festival that premieres on March 26 2015 are promising to shake up the conservative format of the defunct Australian International Motorshow (AIMS) with “very different” levels of interactivity, variety and affordability.
Promising to appeal to a broader demographic than “middle-aged men”, the festival will also be the most heavily-promoted motoring event Victoria has ever seen, according to co-chief and executive director of the Victorian Automotive Chamber of Commerce (VACC), David Purchase.
The VACC was the body that co-ran the defunct AIMS, which in recent years was split between Melbourne and Sydney until its collapse in 2012, alongside the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI).
To take place at the Melbourne Showgrounds between March 26 and 29, 2015, the festival intends to go beyond simple static displays of new cars, though it says it is now lobbying and expects the majority of Australia’s car brands to sign up soon.
This is because it aims to also enable visitors to drive a wide range of new cars on on/off-road driving loops (on a $500,000 custom-made testing circuit), as well as feature motorbikes, classic and historic cars (with unlocked doors, the festival organisers hope), aftermarket accessories and even dodgem cars for the kids.
According to organiser (and racing driver) Renato Loberto, the on-road track will allow people to test features such as adaptive braking and auto parking, while the off-road component will put an SUV's axle articulation, approach and departure and side-angle abilities to the test. The on-track experience will last at least five-minutes, and the festival expects 10,000 participants over the four days.
The historic cars will have their own parade and dedicated feature area with host Shane Jacobson and even a jazz band.
The organisers expect about 100,000 people to go through the gates over the four running days — about half the number who attended the 10-day Melbourne AIMS on average — and will price single tickets from about $30, and family entry for four at around $60. Purchase calls this a "conservative" estimate.
The ambitious plan, according to Purchase, was to turn the festival into a kind of Australian take on the UK’s iconic Goodwood Festival of Speed - albeit one without that event’s famous hill-climb.
While no plans are in place as yet, it is understood that the proposed annual event — which is co-run by the Royal Automotive Club of Victoria (RACV) — could theoretically hit the road and branch out into other states, perhaps with the involvement of interstate motoring clubs.
The move to make the event more engaging and family friendly comes following criticism from various car-makers that the previous Australian motor show format had become too staid.
The axed AIMS in its final year attracted fewer than half of Australia’s car brands — partly because it was not deemed engaging enough, partly because its focus was too narrow, and also because it was far too expensive for car-makers to rent space and create elaborate stands.
Renting a space and making a stand at AIMS (as pictured below) could easily run up to a figure between $1 million and $1.5 million, but buying a lot at the Festival will be less than a tenth of this, said Purchase. This should mean more brands will participate.
The event has just sent out its prospectus and Purchase says it hopes to sign up the vast majority of Australia’s brands by September or October — including not just the “majors (in terms of volume)”, but also the likes of Ferrari, Lamborghini and Rolls-Royce.
“We’ve taken all the best features of a motor show and rolled them into a festival while adding a whole lot of other activities,” said Purchase, adding that he wanted car-makers to keep their stands simple and bereft of excessive glitz. Locked cars will be frowned upon, he added.
“I can’t see why we won’t end up with 100,000 people, I’ll be bitterly disappointed if there’s anything less,” he said. “There’ll be family entertainment, something for everyone. What we’re doing is something that all the exhibitors, all of the car companies… have told us that they want.
"First of all they’ve told us that they want it to be cheaper to exhibit their cars, and they’re also saying they want a shorter duration (than the old circa two-week model). They want an interactive show, they want to be able to hold test drives, they want to let buyers touch, drive and smell and interact with their products.
“This is not a motor show, we don’t want them building these elaborate stands… we’re hoping the car will be on the floor. If they meant what they were saying about shorter duration and less cost, boy have we delivered big time. That’s all you need. (There’s been) tremendous interest in it.”