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Automotive heavyweights hit Sydney

Dr Ulrich Mellinghoff (pictured) heads all safety development for Mercedes-Benz.

The worldwide chiefs of both Mazda and Nissan have hit the harbourside city and so has the man who heads all safety development for Mercedes-Benz, Dr Ulrich Mellinghoff. Phil Popham, the trump at Land Rover in Britain, is also down under.

What's the occasion? It's the first running of the Australian International Motor Show.

The show has been totally re-created since the truce between the rival Melbourne and Sydney shows, and there is a plan to make it a global event that alternates between the two cities. When the AIMS heads to Melbourne in 2011 it will also be run on an entirely new date in the middle of the year to give it some breathing space on the international show, helping to turn it give it an Asia-Pacific focus and turn it into an event which puts Australian on the worldwide show circuit.

The signs are already good, as Ford has upgraded the AIMS to a global event and scheduled the worldwide unveiling of its new Ranger pickup for Sydney today. Mazda is doing the same thing with its BT-50, which was developed from the same T6 project parts in Melbourne. The Ranger unveiling can be dismissed because it was created at Broadmeadows, but its reach goes far wider than Australia and its first official appearance could easily have been scheduled for somewhere outside Australia.

But it's coming in Sydney and Mazda has even brought its CEO, Mr Yamanouchi, as part of its celebration plan. There is all sorts of action for the show, from the first Australian appearance of the Lexus LFA supercar to a couple of show specials from Mercedes-Benz, the Land Rover Evoque will be seen for the first time, there is a new model from Subaru and a potential future hero - still secret - on the Suzuki stand.

We're expecting action across all size and price classes and will have a full wrap on the show next week, with instant online updates throughout the day at www.carsguide.com.au.

But the importance of the new show is reflected in more than just some shiny new cars and over-full displays at Darling Harbour. The first Australian International Motor Show is a sign of the whole car business pulling together, the strength of the motor industry at a time when much of the global business - particularly in the USA and Britain - is still struggling, and proof that people are still interested in cars.

Opening day promises to be a boomer and the ripples will be felt well into 2011 and beyond.