Columnist Morgan Naidu gets stuck into the Johannesburg International Motor Show and exhibitors' need to splash ridiculous sums of money.
It could have been a script straight out of a Tarantino movie. A sports bar in Durban turns into a bloodbath, allegedly caused by an altercation between a bunch of white guys and a bunch of Indian guys over the size of their penises.
Fisticuffs, shots fired, police officers on suspension, two killed and injuries aplenty – both to pride and body.
Thankfully, we have the complexities of the world of motoring to bring us back to reality with a jolt … or was that a tug?
Briefly, anyway, for in about four weeks another dick-measuring contest will take place – this time in the heart of Jozi when the importers, manufacturers, dealers and all sorts of hangers-on come out to play and show off their stuff at the Johannesburg International Motor Show.
The 'new' Auto Africa
It is the spiritual successor to Auto Africa, a showcase of stunning design, throbbing powerplants and the “my stand is bigger than yours” syndrome (display stand, of course).
Over a period of several days, the big and small in the South African automotive industry will gather, whip the covers of new cars, declare great excitement over products still to come and jostle for media attention and coverage.
By the end of it all, this spectacular orgy of motoring masturbation will have gobbled up millions of marketing rands – spent on everything from extravagant display stands and “brand” exhibits to catering, live entertainment, direct marketing gimmicks and hosts and hostesses.
Every conceivable piece of floor space has been bought and paid for. Artisans, shopfitters, stand builders and joinery craftsmen have been roped in to design and build.
The owners of the Johannesburg International Motor Show are specialist exhibitions company Kagiso who this year has teamed up with industry body NAAMSA as joint owners of the new and rebranded event.
Members of the public will be charged between R25 and R60 per ticket to attend the event just south of Johannesburg at Nasrec. With some 300 000 people passing through the turnstiles at the event two years ago, the owners of JIMS could easily anticipate takings just from the gates of over R10-million.
That’s not taking into account the many more millions collected from the 250 exhibiting companies acquiring floor space in the event.
Not so quick!
But, that’s not the irony.
Never mind the fact that the industry is bleeding with slumped sales, oppressive overheads at leading dealerships and a battered economy.
The biggest irony of the Johannesburg International Motor Show is the number of car companies who feel they are being ripped off, that the expenditure on JIMS is an atrocious waste of money and that the return on investment simply does not justify the huge outlay.
A leading executive from Audi SA pointed out that the money being spent by his company on JIMS could pay for an expensive full colour glossy wrap around the Sunday Times newspaper every week for a number of months.
Another industry figure from car manufacturer General Motors claimed that GM could literally “own” the advertising market for three months for the amount of money being spent on JIMS.
A major international tyre company is reducing its presence at JIMS in comparison to previous years because it failed to see the value in spending truck loads of cash for what it called a motoring “peep” show.
It does not stop there. Speak to many of the car companies who manufacture or the big importers and the grumbling is unanimous. Budgets on other projects are slashed to make way for the expense of exhibiting at JIMS.
Yet, some companies are worried their stands may not be as impressive or high impact as their rivals.
One German manufacturer is reportedly spending more than R20-million on its brand exhibition. R20million.
So, gripes about the cost of exhibiting at JIMS aside, no-one is putting a gun to the collective heads of car companies and forcing them to spend millions on extravagant stands.
A great spectacle it will be, no doubt. But will it translate into vehicle sales? Will it help an economically-battered consumer to take the plunge on a new car?
More importantly, will we see anything at JIMS that has not already been revealed at Paris, at Geneva or on the Internet in spy shots?
South Africa is a key entry point onto the continent for many car companies and it is a significant manufacturing centre and automotive export and import hub.
But, to date no car company has invested in a research and development centre or an international design centre on our shores, thus the scope of unique concepts being launched and displayed from a local platform are remote indeed.
Ultimately, can JIMS be taken seriously or is it just another dick-measuring contest?
Let’s hope the answers don’t result in a deadly bloodbath like that bar-room contest in Durban.
If you are, like me, an automotive voyeur, then you will be part of the throngs that descend on JIMS at the end of October to take in the sights and sounds of the motoring world.
I know I will and I promise not to show you mine if you don’t show me yours!
Catch Morgan on DStv's new exclusive motoring platform IGNITION from October 11 on channel 412.
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