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Monday, 16 October, 2000, 15:39 GMT
Has the motor show lost its sparkle?
1998 International Motor Show
Crowds at the 1998 International motor show
by BBC News Online's Brian Wheeler

The Birmingham International Motor Show opens this week in a blaze of publicity.

But visitors flocking to the National Exhibition Centre are unlikely to see anything new from the big manufacturers.

Ford, Renault, General Motors and the rest are increasingly choosing more glamorous locations to launch their latest models.

The days when the world looked to London or Birmingham for the latest design trends appear long gone.

We felt that the marketing budget would be better spent elsewhere

MG Rover spokeswoman

Obscure debuts

Motor shows have traditionally acted as a platform for showing off new models to the press and the trade - as well as a reliable source of orders from the public.

The two week Birmingham show, which is held every two years, is meant to rank alongside Paris and Geneva in the global car show calendar.

Organisers, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, claim 12 cars will be making their world debut at the show.

But a closer look reveals these to be taken almost exclusively from the ranks of specialist sports car makers.

It is disappointing that Birmingham was not chosen for (the Mini's) debut, as is Rover's decision not to attend

SMMT spokeswoman

Ford's new Mondeo and Renault's latest Laguna range were both launched at the Paris show in September.

BMW also chose the Paris show to launch the new Mini, even though it will be manufactured in the English Midlands.

Crowds at Birmingham will have to be satisfied with more obscure debuts, such as the Qvale Mangusta or the Ronart Lightning.

Rover's absence

More worryingly for the SMMT, none of the top 12 volume car makers will be sending a chief executive to the show.

But perhaps the most surprising absentee is troubled British car maker MG Rover.

The company says it cannot hope to generate enough sales to justify the cost of stand.

A Rover spokeswoman told BBC News Online: "It doesn't mean that we are never going to be at a motor show ever again.

1960 international motor show
The motor show was the highlight of the British car industry's year

"We are probably going to be at the Sydney motor show later this year, because we have two new models to launch.

"We will evaluate each motor show as they come up."

She adds: "We felt that the marketing budget would be better spent elsewhere."

Many in the motor industry are believed to privately share Rover's view.

But this has not stopped Ford from spending about 12m on its 6,000 sq ft stand, more than in any previous year. It will be displaying 67 vehicles, including the first European airing of the new Explorer and Transit.

Vauxhall is presenting 52 cars, including the European debut of the new Corsa and the Vivaro.

No shortage of exhibits

"It is disappointing that Birmingham was not chosen for (the Mini's) debut, as is Rover's decision not to attend," an SMMT spokesman says.

The organisation is spending 10m to ensure the Birmingham show's success.

And with 300 exhibitors and more than 1,000 vehicles on display there will be no shortage of exhibits for motoring enthusiasts to pore over.

But the decline of Britain's home-grown car industry - together with the increasing popularity of foreign shows, seems to have relegated the Birmingham show to the second division of global motor shows.

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See also:

28 Sep 00 | Business
The Mini finally grows
05 Oct 00 | Business
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16 Jul 00 | Wales
Success for Welsh car show
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