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Motor show revived

In 2012, Ford set up a gigantic display outside the front doors of the Sydney motor show at Darling Harbour.

The Melbourne motor show is set to roar back to life after being parked for two years, giving new hope to the concept returning to other capital cities.

Show-goers will have the chance to get behind the wheel and see cars in action as it moves to the Melbourne showgrounds for the first time and becomes a four-day festival of speed. Now called the 'Australian Motoring Festival, The Motor Show That Moves You', it is due to be held in the same month as the Formula One Grand Prix, on 26-29 March, 2015.

"The Australian Motoring Festival is a new concept devised to connect car manufacturers and people in a new and dynamic way," said David Purchase, the executive director of the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce, which is running the event in partnership with the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria. "Extensive research shows that people want to be able to engage and interact with the exhibits and activities at motoring events and that's what we intend to deliver," said Mr Purchase.

The RACV's general manager of motoring Gordon Oakley said: "This will be an entirely new event on the Australian motoring calendar and it will be a very different experience from the traditional motor show." As well as the static displays there will be test drives and vehicle technology demonstrations, historic cars and displays from design award competition winners, among other "family-based" activities. Car manufacturers are yet to confirm their attendance as the new event has only just been announced, but Mr Purchase said he expects a "positive reaction".

Although the Melbourne motor show attracted more visitors than its Sydney counterpart, attendance had slipped from 320,000 visitors in 2001 to 194,000 in 2011 as buyers did most of their car-buying research online. But the real reason Australia's biggest motor show was cancelled in 2013 was the declining attendance from car manufacturers who baulked at the $1 million-plus cost to set up their displays.

Fewer than half of the 64 car brands on sale in Australia had agreed to turn up and once the Melbourne motor show collapsed, the Sydney motor show it had alternated with each year since 2009 was also cancelled.

It was the first time since World War II that the Melbourne motor show was not run. There was no event in 1930 and 1931 due to the Great Depression and between 1941 and 1948 due to the war efforts.

The first event was held in 1925 in the Royal Exhibition Building, now listed as a World Heritage site, and the motor show was based there for 61 years before it moved to the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre in 1996.

The revitalised 2015 event, an outdoor extravaganza, follows a move by Ford Australia to take its own motor show to the people over the past two years. In 2012, Ford set up a gigantic display outside the front doors of the Sydney motor show at Darling Harbour and gave punters the chance to test drive cars on a closed test course and on the open road.

The Ford mini-motorshow was such a success the company has since taken it across Australia, from the Gold Coast to Perth.More than 30,000 people have test driven a car at the outdoor Ford events, but Melbourne motorists were the biggest fans.

When Ford's rolling roadshow came to the Melbourne CBD in January 2014, more than 8500 people test drove cars, by far the greatest attendance in the shows held to date.

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This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling

Joshua Dowling
National Motoring Editor
Joshua Dowling was formerly the National Motoring Editor of News Corp Australia. An automotive expert, Dowling has decades of experience as a motoring journalist, where he specialises in industry news.
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