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We welcome letters far publication on transport topics. Address them to Commercial Motor, Dorset House, Stamford Street, London SE 1.
Why have a London Show?
CAN somebody please explain why there is a Commercial Motor Show?
Perhaps it's to show off all the new, exciting models or. better still, to give interested buyers a chance to drive in them. Or is it for sellers to meet their eager customers and actually do business? Perhaps none of these is the true reason, perhaps after all it's just to give the Motor Barons land Baronets) a chance to announce those nation-saving export orders, miraculously achieved, "in the face of stiff competition etc' on the opening day. Or maybe after all it's an excuse to get all the trade worthies together to celebrate Lord knows what at this or that association dinner.
Whatever the reason or excuse for holding this mercifully only biennial motor fiesta. I would like, briefly, to expound a case for dropping it. "Earls Court"—what a name to conjure with! What a grandiose name for such an unprepossessing emporium in a run-down area! As an exhibition hall, Earls Court has surely "had it-. The parking arrangements for exhibitors are bad and getting far worse; for visitors, non-existent. Least said about the catering the better, in my view. But by far the worst aspect of Earls Court is the singularly oppressive and seemingly humid atmosphere that hangs within the place for most of the 10 days of Show time.
Let's leave aside the shortcomings of the arena and look at the set pieces—the stands and the exhibits. "I really don't know why we're here", was one rather frustrated-looking sales manager's comment to me. And one can sympathize. They are certainly not there to sell that new, excitingly displayed, highly polished piece of engineering that's attracting all the sightseers, because (a) it's not yet in production, (b) when it does start being produced it won't look like that and it will cost more and, anyway, (C) they are sold out for the next two years. Strange economics to spend all that money promoting something you don't want to sell? Ah, but what about those demonstration runs? What indeed! One bus load out on "demoat this year's Earls Court actually walked home because of traffic jams and certainly that part of London is not ideal for road testing anything bigger than a Bond Bug. Meeting place for friends and doing business? Categorically, Earls Court is no place for doing business either for the buyer or the seller; business done there is often repented at leisure.
Ah, but what about those wonderful export orders? Anyone who seriously believes that the orders are placed on opening day of the Commercial Motor Show, or indeed on any day of the Show, is far too naive to be anywhere near the motor trade—or any trade. These orders are often negotiated for months beforehand, usually finalized long before the Show and more often than not represent a perfectly normal repeat order from overseas agents. Announcing them with a fanfare of trumpets has become somewhat of a "crying wolf" operation, serving only to depress home market customers who cannot get delivery and to jog the workers into misguided wage claims (which accompany all full order books). As for the trade dinners which accompany motor shows, it's rather like a General Election—you know, you can't find anyone who voted for "them". Well, try and find anyone who will admit to enjoying trade dinners, especially the speeches.
Now perhaps I should retract a little. Like all generalizations, that one about trade dinners is a little flimsy. I have enjoyed, and hope to continue enjoying, smaller "trade" dinners up and down the country, from Wigan to the Isle of Wight, where nearly everyone knows everyone else, where the atmosphere is delightfully informal and un-pompous (in direct contrast to the "national affairs") and where speakers are mercifully brief and even modest! Could not smaller, dare one say "provincial", shows be to the Commercial Motor Show what the local association's dinner is to the national banquet? I mean comfortable, friendly, easy to get to, and above all practical. Dealers' shows have begun to prove that—as one journalist recently wrote in a national magazine: "Operators apparently prefer the congenial atmosphere of the dealer's show to the big show at Earls Court". Certainly at the dealer's show, there can be ample, free (of course!) parking, a wide range of exhibits-including, if desired, used vehicles—attractively displayed in warm, comfortable and above all airy surroundings, ideal refreshment and catering arrangements and, most valuable, excellent demonstration facilities. At our own company's annual Coach Show which attracts 2,0003,000 visitors, it's the "demowhich really wins the day. With M1 on our doorstep, a varied test route is readily available and, most important, anyone can drive. Incidentally, one very valuable throw-off from these demo runs is the feed-back from experienced driver/ operators who are quick to point out details needing attention to suppliers and manufacturers, who also attend the dealer's show.
After all this we shall probably be expelled from the SMMT, of which we are one of the few "ordinary" members. However, the Society should exist for its members, and this is one member's voice.
CHARLES YEATES, Managing director, W. S. Yeates Ltd., Loughborough.