Not that long ago, an all-new model would be successfully kept under wraps until a new manufacturer was good and ready to reveal it to the world.
The first time you saw it, or the first time you knew of its existence for that matter, was the moment the ceo of the company asked some random beautiful model to remove the covers.
These days it’s almost impossible to keep a new model a secret before its official debut. I say almost, because, somehow, Ford managed to keep its all-new Raptor and GT supercar under wraps until it was revealed at a recent motor show. Yes, there was speculation that it might happen, but not a single pre-production test mule was photographed before those cars drove onto the stage. I’d ask them how they did it, but that would kind of defeat the purpose. I can only guess that new Fords are more closely guarded than KFC’s secret combination of herbs and spices.
The spy photographs usually surface when a new car goes through its testing phase. Manufacturers try and disguise them as much as possible, but it’s just not possible to go unnoticed or unrecorded in the age of the camera phone. All it takes is one eagle-eyed spectator and within five minutes the world knows that there’s a new Kia Sportage on the way. There are even people who do this kind of thing for a living. There are a few individuals who are permanently stationed at the Nurburgring, which is a hotbed of new model activity.
It seems harmless activity, but it does have consequences. The reason why a manufacturer doesn’t want you to know that a new model is on the way is simply because they still want to keep selling the old one. There’s nothing dastardly about that, in fact, it’s just good business.
The consequence I’m worried about is the downfall of the motor show. These things are used as platform to awe the general public with new models and outlandish concept vehicles. You go to a motor show to be amazed, but the digital age has robbed the consumer of the opportunity to walk around in a hall filled with machines he’s never seen before.
I’ve never been to an international motor show, but I’ve heard that it is spectacular. The vibe is infectious and the onslaught of new models is unbelievable. Even from our office, thousands of kilometres away from the big shows like Frankfurt, Geneva and Detroit, we’re always bowled over by the sheer amount of information that comes through on the wires. You can see what a new car looks like in a spy shot, but everything else is just pure speculation.
Is that, however, enough to save the motor show? I’ve noticed that more and more companies are doing their own separate showcases, just like Steve Jobs did whenever Apple has something new it wanted to show the world. It makes sense, as it completely dominates a 24-hour news cycle, instead of having to compete with 10 other new model debuts on the same day at the average motor show.
Which brings me back to my question: is the motor show dead? Well, it depends on what show it is. The Johannesburg International Motor Show is no more, but that’s hardly surprising. I’ve been to JIMS a few times and there was none of that shock and awe I’ve heard so much about and that’s mostly because there was nothing new to look at. The manufacturers go out of their way to make an effort, but some of the romance of a reveal is lost when you’ve already written an article about it months ago.
But that’s just me, speaking as a motoring writer. My whole family went to that same JIMS and they loved it. It was the SA public’s only opportunity to see most of the cars on sale in SA in one place.
Their only criticism was the fact that they couldn’t get close to and sit in the supercars, but I can’t say that I blame people like Ferrari, Lamborghini and Bentley for cordoning off their vehicles. I don’t know how true this rumour is, but I’ve heard that there are people out there who steal the lighter sockets out of high-end cars. Only in SA…
It’s a pity, because JIMS could have been really special this year, as far as the public is concerned. It’s impossible to say, but I’m willing to bet that we would have seen the new Hilux, Ranger, Triton and Navara in the same room at the same time. That alone would have been worth the price of a ticket.
I didn’t like JIMS very much, but I can’t help but feel sad that we no longer have a motor show in Africa. – Gerhard Horn