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Australian motor show axed

The joint-venture Australian show was badly affected by a poor attendance and a lack of manufacturer backing.

Australia's last remaining motor show faces a massive makeover to help it survive beyond the cancellation of this year's event, scheduled for Melbourne in June.

Falling attendances and dwindling car company support for the Australian International Motor Show triggered the cancellation, following the demise of motor shows in Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth over the past five years and the amalgamation of the standalone shows in Sydney and Melbourne.

The joint-venture Australian show is in its infancy and was badly affected by a poor attendance and a lack of manufacturer backing for the inaugural running in Sydney last year at the outdated and undersized exhibition centre in Darling Harbour.

Now the organisers - the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries and the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce - intend to bring the show into the 21st century with a reinvention that could lead to a rolling roadshow similar to the successful Goodwood Festival of Speed in Britain.

"We're ruling nothing in and nothing out on the future structure of the motor show," the AIMS organiser, Russ Tyrie, told News Limited. "We really want to start again. We're exploring all the opportunities. We have a lot of research to help us and we intend to re-engage with our exhibitors."

It is believed that the tipping point for the 2013 show was the withdrawal of the giant Volkswagen Group, with its Audi, Skoda and Volkswagen brands, and the uncertainty of support from the Korean giant, Hyundai.

Less than 20 brands had committed to displaying their cars at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre, even though there are close to 60 now in showrooms and car sales are heading towards another record result this year. Carmakers report a minimum investment of $1 million in the show, with many spending more than $2 million for the week-long event.

Tyrie admitted that changing trends in car buying and entertainment choice had hurt the motor show, and has not ruled out resorting to government funding to support the AIMS. "The show has never been involved in funding from governments but, in future, all opportunities will be investigated. Our research shows the last Melbourne show generated in excess of $20 million in benefits to the state of Victoria," he said.

He also denied that running the show twice in the same financial year, even with one event in Sydney and the other planned for Melbourne, had contributed to the cancellation. "That had already been canvassed and there was nothing to suggest it was an impediment, from the point of view of the car companies." But the traditional motor show is already facing a growing threat from a new rival, the GreenZone Drive.

It is a hands-on event that allows people to test drive the growing number of environmentally friendly cars in Australian showrooms and has drawn growing attendances to locations including Melbourne, Sydney and the Gold Coast. 

"This could be an opportunity for us. We have an event that has run successfully for the past four years and is attracting a growing number of people," GreenZone organiser, John Kananghinis, told News Limited.

This journalist is on twitter: @paulwardgover

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